Night time lightning at Coors Field
Night time lightning at Coors Field – Should they still be playing ?

So you’re on the diamond and the clouds are rolling in, you can hear thunder and after a while you can see lightening. What do you do ? Here’s some advice on handling the dangers of Lightning when umpiring around Manly.

We’ll firstly remember as umpires we have a duty of care for all players and associated people that are there watching the game or assisting. Meaning doing nothing is not an option.

This is always a difficult situation to handle. If you pause the game, or call it off, the winning team will be on you complaining, particularly if you’ve not played long enough to meet the requirements for a regular game. The loosing team will be pressuring you to be cautious as they’re happy to get out of it with a no game rather than a loss. Many other people will have an opinion on what to do. I know, been there done that, didn’t enjoy it. This is why I’ve gone looking for guidance and procedures on the right way to handle this. This is what I’ve come up with.

So in the Manly area the only document I’ve found that has any guidance on this is the Manly junior rules. I’ve been told that the Minor League (Adults) is aligned with this, though its not in their rules (yet). The junior rules can be found on our rules page here. So below is what is said in the 2022 rules:

4.12 Lightning
4.12.1 30 – 30 Rule. After taking cover, if the duration between a lightning strike and a thunderclap is 30 seconds or less, then remain under cover for a minimum of 30 minutes after the last thunderclap heard.
4.12.2 This is a minimum requirement.
4.12.3 If the minimum requirement is met, the game may recommence regardless of rule 4.4.3.1.

Rule 4.4.3.1 referred to above now doesn’t exist in the document, but it used to. What is used to say is this

4.4.3 Once the game has commenced, the Chief Umpire shall be the sole judge as to whether play shall be halted or restarted due to environmental conditions.
4.4.3.1 Should play be halted, the time play halted will be recorded by the scorers and if play does not recommence within 30 minutes, the game will have been considered to have been abandoned (except when play is halted in rule 4.10)

Additionally, my reading informs me that dugouts are not considered adequate cover for protection from lightning strike.
This seems pretty sensible, so don’t hang out in the dugout if you’ve off the diamond due to lightening. Move to a more solid building or i think even a car is safer.

So thats it.
Really there is only 1 thing to remember and thats the 30-30 rule. ie if the duration between a lightning strike and a thunderclap is 30 seconds or less, then remain under cover for a minimum of 30 minutes after the last thunderclap heard.

Hopefully this gives you a better way of deciding when to get off the diamond and when its safe to return and crucially a way of explaining to the team managers how you are making this decision and when you can get back to play.

But don’t just take my advice on this, do some searching and reading to better understand the risks and what you should and shouldn’t do. Here’s some links to get you started but there is a lot of advice out there so its not hard to find

https://earthsky.org/earth/myths-about-lightning-debunked/
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-30/how-to-be-safe-in-a-lightning-storm/9205742
https://bushwalkingmanual.org.au/weather/lightning/

Written by David Chaffers-Welsh