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Scouts work hard to keep boys safe in lightning storms

By Jed Boal | Posted - Jul. 13, 2011 at 10:02 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — The Boy Scouts of America intensified its training for lightning safety six years ago, in part because of a fatality in Utah.

Within one week in the summer of 2005, lightning killed a Salt Lake City Boy Scout and a Boy Scout and his assistant Scout master in California. Hazardous weather training became even more important than it had been.

The incident involving the Salt Lake City boy happened on August 3, 2005, at Camp Steiner in the Uinta Mountains. The 15 year-old Scout died, and three other Scouts were hurt when lightning struck their log lean-to.

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"We've worked really hard to try to get leaders more aware of these hazards," says Rick Barnes, Scout Executive for the Great Salt Lake Council of Boy Scouts. "Unfortunately, these boys today were in this campsite by themselves."

After that deadly summer in 2005, updates were made in the Guide to Safe Scouting. The key message: When lightning roars, go indoors.

Also, when Scout leaders put together a tour plan on line, they must answer questions about their hazardous weather training. They can link to that training online.

"There has to be at least one leader, as part of that trip, that has that training," says Barnes. "That's a requirement."

The Director of Wilderness Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine shares some general rules for lightning safety. Dr. Richard Ingebretsen says, when you start to see dark storm clouds building, keep an eye out for the first bold of lightning. When you see that bolt, follow the 30-30 rule.

"Basically it says, if you see lightning and it takes less than 30 seconds to hear the sound, you've got to get to cover or a safe place," Ingebretsen explained.

Then stay there for 30 minutes until the lightning and thunder have cleared.

"That's the 30-30 rule that we want everybody to know about," Ingebretsen said.

If you can't take cover in a car or building, the National Weather Service recommends that you crouch near the ground, put your heels together, and put your hands on your ears. If lightning travels through the ground, it doesn't go up into your body.

In the backcountry, you can't always take cover. The worst places to be are near high objects, like trees, or metal objects. So stay out of your tent with metal poles, and remember that crouch.

jboal@ksl.com

Jed Boal

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