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2014 International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), Shanghai, China

Hierarchy ofHazard Control to Minimize Lightning Risk

Ashen Gomes

Centre for Electromagnetics and Lightning Protection Universiti Putra Malaysia Serdang, Malaysia

Abstract- This paper presents analysis of various potential lightning risk scenarios, especially in less developed communities. We identify that there is no uniform safety promotion module that may be applicable to all communities with success. Hence we develop a hierarchy of hazard control mechanism that may be applicable to any given community with uniform professional or social practices. The hierarchy of control ladder has been integrated with the responsibility distribution network that runs from government level to the potential victim. The mechanism could be adopted by designers of lightning safety promotional programs in many parts of the world by appropriately determining the tools of implementation at various societal and professional levels. It is expected to minimize deaths and injuries as well as property damage due to lightning in vulnerable parts of the world.

Keywords-hierachy ofcontrol, mechnism, lightning, deaths



The lightning related deaths and injuries have been decreasing significantly during the last century in several developed countries where data related to lightning-caused casualty are documented over the time [1-4]. However, the same trends could not be predicted in many developing countries, basically due to the lack of such chronological information. On the other hand several papers published recently with regard to short-term data reveals that the lightning casualties, per unit population is much larger in such countries than those figures in developed countries in the same time frames [5-8]. These information reveal that annual death rate in developing countries at present is in par with that in developed countries about a century ago [2].

There are no publications in the literature that provide chronological trends in the variation of lightning related fmancial losses. Reports on lightning impacts on the economy depicts that the losses are due to the damage to electronics and public services (power, communication, cable TV etc.), partial or total destruction of buildings and other man-made structures, death of live-stock and forest fires [9]. Large scale monetary losses due to secondary effects such as downtime in the industrial and service sectors, data and information losses and cost of emergency services are most often overlooked in the preparation of lightning related loss-budgets [10]. Once in a while, lightning causes destruction with significantly large

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Chandima Gomes

Centre for Electromagnetics and Lightning Protection Universiti Putra Malaysia Serdang, Malaysia

footprints on the environment, apart from monetary losses, when it trigger fires in the oil and gas sector [11]. Several such incidents have been reported in the last decade, which we will discuss in the next section.

The experience in lightning safety promotion in many parts of the world shows that the suitability of methods of conveying the safety message to public, the success rates of implementing the safety guidelines, the response of the public etc. have a large variance over the globe. The level of education, living style and income, housing and sheltering methods, occupational practices, religious and social attitudes, isokeraunic level (or more precisely the ground flash density) etc. have different degrees of impact on the final count of lightning related deaths, injuries and property damage in a given region [12, 13]. The safety measures cannot be expected solely from the potential victim. It should be concerned, designed and implemented at each layer of the society starting from the government. Failure to implement such distributed responsibility may end up in failure of the target outcomes. This is applicable to all natural disasters, however, our focus in this paper will only be on lightning.

Under such backdrop it is a need of the hour to develop a management model by which lightning risk can be minimized by implementing a flexible code of practice for a given community taking into account the affordability of the society. The affordability of the society is specified here in terms of money and time. The first attempt in this regard was made by Mary and Gomes [14]. They applied a hierarchy of hazard control model for a fisheries community at the shore of Lake Victoria in Uganda. In this study, we attempt to expand this model to many other bound communities taking society­ dependent factors of the communities into account. We also develop a more formidable order of responsibilities that can be integrated into the hierarchy of control mechanism.



Information on eight lightning related incidents from the world front (from developing or less-developed countries) have been collected from various sources. The incidents were pertinent to multiple deaths occurred in bound-communities. Other than those extracted from published scientific literature,


information have been cross-examined from various sources to ensure the data accuracy. In several cases, eyewitnesses of the incident or aftermath of the incident have been interviewed to get detailed information.

The incidents have been analyzed to understand the level of responsibilities that should be taken by each layer of the society in preventing such mishaps in the future. The responsibility chart is then integrated with the proposed hierarchy of hazard control mechanism.


A. Success and faliure of lightning safety modules

Studies done on floods, earthquakes, and tropical cyclones show that a highly elevated proportion of deaths and property damage due to such disasters is pertinent to developing countries [15]. This reference [15] explains that such observations are not necessarily be due to the higher susceptibility of developing world to natural disasters, but the impact is often more prominent due to many socio-economic factors. An under-privileged society with poor infrastructure, below par literacy rate and mediocre income level is highly unlikely to follow risk reduction guidelines in the event of a natural disaster such as lightning, due to various constraints [6, 13]. Studies done in Indonesia on floods and earthquakes show that people live in areas which regularly encounter such disasters have a higher tendency of disaster aversion [16], however, in the case of lightning, as the occurrence locality is quite random, the chances of a single community experiencing such natural hazard more than once is rare. Such conditions require more stringent lightning safety modules for the public than that for many other natural disasters.

However, the interviews conducted by the authors in several South Asian countries with a number of potential victim communities, revealed that many social and religious leaders are concerned about the human safety against lightning and they are willing to be educated. However, irrespective of some efforts taken in several regions in South Asia such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for the last many years, recent studies show that the accidents are not that low in these countries [13, 17]. On the other hand, several developed countries, such as USA, where continuous lightning safety campaigns conducted over the years show remarkable reduction in lightning accidents [1, 2]. Such scenario raises the inevitable question of why lightning safety modules fail in some regions whereas they work well in other regions. The issue needs an urgent answer as the international lightning safety communities prepare themselves to launch lightning awareness and safety promotional programs in the vastly untouched areas of Africa and Latin America where the lightning related incidents are remarkably high. As the lightning safety programs in South Asia has proven that the existing models are not as successful as the promoters expected at the initial stages, it is advisable to analyze the possible scenarios before the existing modules are applied again. In this background, it is high time that one

should investigate the causes of lightning incidents in countries where such cases are prevalent.

B. Lightning accidents of bound communities

To understand the required augmentations in lightning safety models that should be introduced to the communities, especially in the developing and less-developed countries, we have considered eight lightning accidents with multiple deaths, intentionally selected from Africa and South Asia. The victims could be categorized as belong to a certain bound community in each case.

Incident 1: On 27th June in 2011, 19 people (18 students and their teacher) were killed by a single lightning strike while the students were taking shelter in a school building in Uganda [6]. Apart from those who succumb to their injuries, 38 people were admitted to the hospital with various degrees of personal injuries. The victims were between 7 and 16 years of age other than the teacher, who is an adult. The school was situated in Masindi area, about 260 km to the west of Kampala, the capital city. The lightning has struck the roof of the building around 4.30 pm in the evening (primary source: "Uganda lightning strike kills school children", BBe World, 29 June 2011). The pictures and eyewitness interviews revealed that the classroom where the accident took place is a brick-walled building with un-grounded metal room. A whole of diameter of 3-4 cm is visible in the room where the lightning may have been attached.

Incident 2: On 24tll July in 2014 another school building was struck by lightning killing eight students on the spot and critically injuring 23 other students in Uganda (primary source:

"8 pupils struck dead by lightning in Bushenyi", New Vision, 24 July 2014). The incident has taken place in the evening hours, around 4.45 pm. Although not much information is given in the news reports, the residents in Kampala, contacted by the authors, said that the school building may most probably be the one similar to that where the 2011 incident took place. Most of the school buildings in Uganda are made of wood, or brick walls with a metal roof, which is left un-grounded (personal observations and interviews).

Incident 3: On 28th December in 2013 a Seventh Day Adventure Church building in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi was struck by lightning while a congregation was attending the service (primary source: "Eight people killed by lightning strike on church", The Independent, 29 December 2013). The lightning strike killed eight people and injured unrevealed number of people. The lightning has struck in the late afternoon hours. An eyewitness has stated that she has fIrst heard a frightening loud sound and a few minutes later she has noticed a stampede. The victims include seven adults and one child. Cross-correspondence reveals that the church is a brick­ walled structure with un-grounded metal roof and clay tiled floor.

Incident 4: On loth July in 2014, nine people were killed and fIve more were injured as lightning struck a small temple


in Kolia, a remote village in West Bengal, North Eastern India (primary source: "Lightning strikes kill 11", The Indian Express, 11 July 2014). All 14 people were working in a project site close to the temple in which they have sought shelter as the rain thickens in the afternoon. The project was owned by a well-known organization in India, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The nature of the building of the temple is not known to the authors however, from the appearance of Hindu temples in the region, it can be guessed that the pertinent temple may be an unprotected brick-walled structure with tile or tin roofed.

Incident 5: On 13th August in 2010 a Quranic training center in Sarguilla, a remote village in Southern Darfur, Sudan has been struck by lightning killing seven children aged 10 -13 years and injuring nine more who were attending the religious education sessions (primary source: "Lightning strike kills 7 children at religious school in Sudan's Darfur region", Associated Press, 16 August 2010). The report states that the building was a simple construction and had a thatched roof. It is not clear whether the cause of deaths is the lightning strike itself or the consequent fire that has been erupted (or both). The news report also stated that the heavy rains made roads to the village inaccessible thus extra medical care could not be provided in time. A non-cross-confirmed report obtain through personal communication revealed that the accident has happened in the afternoon hours.

Incident 6: On loth August in 2012, lightning struck a makeshift mosque in Saraswati, a remote village in Bangladesh, which is situated about 200 km from the Capital City, Dhaka. The incident caused the death of 13 people and injuries to 20 more people who survived (primary source:

"Lightning strikes makeshift mosque in Bangladesh, kills 13", CNN World, 10, August 2012). The incident took place in the evening as about 35 people gathered for a special service arranged during the Islam holy month of fasting. The make shift mosque was an ungrounded tin-roofed tent on wooden poles. The only way out to the hospital, a boat-ride across the Saraswati River that boarders the village, was hampered by the floods thus many victims succumbed to their injuries while waiting for their way to the hospital.

Incident 7: In few consecutive days in late May and early June in 2014, 13 farm workers were killed in West Bengal, North Eastern India as thunderstorms swept over the region. Twenty other people who were affected by the lightning strikes survived with injuries. All victims were working on the open fields as they were affected. It has been reported that farm workers persisted in continuing their work in the open fields despite strong winds, heavy rains and thunderstorms prevailed in the region for the few days during which the mishaps took place (primary source: "Lightning kills 13 people in eastern India, Al Jazeera", 02 Jun 2014).

On the 15t of April 2008, four soldiers were

killed and 59 others were injured when lightning struck a

Incident 8:

nearby tree in an army trammg center in Katukaleyawa, Minneriya, a city, which is situated about 200 km from Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka (primary source:

"Lightning kills 4 soldiers, wounds 59 in Sri Lanka", ABC News, 2 Apr 2008). The incident has occurred as the soldiers were engaged with routinely physical exercise in the evening. The victims were on open grounds as the lightning struck nearby. Not much information on the incident has been revealed due to the on-going military operations in the country during the time of incident. Evening thundershowers are well known to occur during March/April period in Sri Lanka.

C. Need for Hirarchy of hazard control mechnaism

The incidents described in the section B show that in each case the victims belong to a certain societal layer interconnected by either cultural, religious, professional or habitual uniformity. In the first two incidents the victims belong to a school community, in incident 3, 5 and 6 the victims belong to a religious community and in incident 4, 7 and 8 the subjects belong to a professional entity. Note that in the case of incident 4, although the accident took place at a religious place, the victims were known to be from a professional community rather than the religious community.

A group of people that is engaged with similar type of employment, regular recreational activity or routinely social, religious or traditional practices can be treated as a bound­ community. A community that has some bound-relationship most often consists of several interacting subsystems and sub­ processes with hierarchal leadership. In the event of a natural disaster with short-time warning such as lightning, a bound community may take collective directional actions in the presence of a local leadership (most often spontaneously arise) or may create total chaos in panic if such leadership does not arise. Therefore the safety of such community could not be ensured either by centralized control alone or individual control alone. However, the bound-nature of the community makes implementation of safety measures feasible through distributed responsibility of control. Hence, in such cases, a hierarchal hazard control approach with regard to lightning safety may be highly fruitful in minimizing injuries and property damage.

The concept of the hierarchy of hazard control mechanism that may successfully be applied to the communities in high lightning risk regions is quite popular in many industrial and commercial sectors [18, 19]. The hierarchy of hazard control is typically applied in to work spaces with well-defined set of personnel and work-boundaries. Such enclosed workspaces are industrial entities (factories, outdoor construction sites, metal quarries, farms etc.) and service entities (seaports and airports, cargo terminals, power generation and distribution plants, communication hubs, network repair teams with task boundaries, military etc.). Reference [14] has investigated the feasibility of adopting the hierarchy of hazard control mechanism into lightning safety of much larger bound communities such as fisheries, agriculture, livestock and animal husbandry etc. In reference [14] a hazard control


mechanism has been proposed for a fisheries community in

Lake Victoria shore in Uganda to minimize lightning hazards. They have proposed this mechanism for the said community as

a recommendation to curb the unusually high lightning

accident rate in Uganda, especially among the fisheries community in the shores of Lake Victoria. In this study we explore the possibilities of this concept to be extended to many other communities bound by not only the profession but societal practices, religious activities, recreational activities, etc.

D. Analysis of incidents

Incidents 1-6 have happened while the affected were seeking shelter inside structures. These structures have not been protected and in most cases were having ungrounded metallic roofs or thatched roofs, which are very much vulnerable to trigger side flashes or fire in the event of a

lightning strike. Most of these victims may have been affected

by either side flashes or step potential [20]. The structures were

not given at least basic low cost protection [21] irrespective of

the fact that the owners/authorities had the prior knowledge of public gathering.

In all incidents, except for no 7, the victims were attending collective activities, thus individual behavior is not responsible for the victimization. In all these cases (except case 7) there is a well-recognizable hierarchical ladder of command that could prevent or minimize the mishaps (both during and post event).

It is unfortunate that after the incident in 2011 in Uganda, which took 19 lives, a similar incident happened in the same country at a similar location. Such repetition took place despite even a research paper has published on lightning accidents in the country highlighting the incident 1 [6]. In both cases except one, all the victims were children. Incident 5 also reflects a case where children of just-teen or preteen age were affected by the lightning strike. Special attention should be given at various levels of the societal ladder in providing safety measures to places where minors will be housed, as they hardly understand the safety guidelines in a disaster situation.

Incident 4 reflects a common situation in many developing countries. Companies or institutions employ labour forces for outdoor activities without providing them safety instructions or safety shelters in the event of an emergency situation. This compels the labour team to seek shelter in any public place in the event of a natural extreme event, or be exposed to the extreme condition at their site location. In the case of incident

4, the employer is a well-known entity in India for rural

development, thus, they could have easily developed safety shelters for their outdoor workers as sub-projects within their work frame.

Incident 5 and 6 shows the complex nature of human catastrophes when several extreme events occur in parallel or

in consequence. Most often tropical thunderstorms bring not

only lightning but also floods and rough waters, which make islandic isolations, especially in remote areas. Under such

circumstances accessing medical facilities may seriously be delayed due to transportation constraints. Hence awareness of giving first-aid and local medical facilities will be of high advantage in these areas.

Incident 3 is a good example of the lack of scientific awareness and local control command, which caused deaths due to a stampede apart from the lightning effects. It is a well­ known fact that once lightning strikes, the immediate effects are over within milliseconds thus, unless there is a fire hazard there will be no reason for panicking and immediate eviction of occupants from the location of hazard. In a bound community, such as a congregation of a religious place, the leader of the house or any other religious leadership could have commanded the gathering to act for minimum damage, if such leadership had safety awareness regarding the situation.

The incident 8 has occurred in a well-bound community with highly orderly hierarchy of command, thus the mishap could be easily avoided if the commanding officers had a good understanding of the lightning safety procedures. In Sri Lanka, many such lightning accidents (usually single death, multiple injuries) in the military are reported in the newspapers, especially under non-combatant situations. Such incidents are not rare as per the news items coming from other South Asian countries as well.

Incident 7 is the only case discussed in this paper where the accidents are due to separate events, occurred in the same region within few days. All victims were farm workers and they have been affected while working in open fields. Weather reports on the period of incidents clearly show that the victims have continued working outdoor irrespective of the prevailing overcast conditions. The most probable reason for such persistent fieldwork is the lack of substitution for their only source of earning. Many of these people work on daily-wage basis, thus irrespective of the reason, the absence from work leads them to lose the day's wage. Many of these farmer communities at village level are guided by certain hierarchy of leadership although many of them work on individual basis. Their immediate leader may most probably be the owner of the farmland. Apart from that, there may be an in charge of each process such as ploughing, seeding, weeding, water management, crop harvest etc.

E. The order of responsibility

Based on the analysis of incidents, we would like to propose the order of responsibility to maximize the lightning safety of bound-communities in a given country as it is depicted in Figure-I.


The responsibility structure starts with the government or state authority of the country. This should come in the form of a national policy, safety guidelines and standards, which should be imposed compulsory or voluntary, based on the entity of protection. For example places with public gathering (schools, hospitals, libraries, religious places, auditoriums and cinema


halls etc.), installations with consequential catastrophes (gas and oil storages, chemical and explosive stores, power stations etc.) and places of irreversibility in the event of damage (museums, national heritage, art galleries etc.) should be made compulsory to adopt lightning protection measures according to national or international standards. Other installations built at exposed topographical locations and/or at geographical locations of high lightning density can strongly be recommended to adopt protection measures. Depending on the availability of state funding, the government can initiate donations or affordable loan schemes to the public to obtain suitable protection scheme for their houses or industrial installations.

Typically, the Department of Meteorology (DoM) in most countries comes under the government purview. Hence, it is a state responsibility to enhance the capacity of meteorology sector to provide fast and accurate weather predictions to the general pUblic. The government can coordinate the DoM and mass media to increase the efficiency of dissemination of weather forecasting.

The government can also take initiatives in promoting lightning safety awareness guidelines among the public by including such information into school curricula and supporting organizations that promote lightning safety awareness in the country.

Government NGO Local Authority and Police Community Leadership Potential Victim
Local Authority and Police
Community Leadership
Potential Victim

Figure 1: Order of Responsibility

Non-governmental organizations:

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), especially those working on social welfare and natural disaster management can play a vital role in taking the safety message to the public (through, media presentations, trammg programs and workshops, public display systems, booklets and posters etc.), coordinating institutes of weather prediction (DoM and lightning detection system owners) and media, communication

providers etc.

facilities for the low-income societies to purchase lightning protection systems.

Another important task that NGOs could focus on is the providing of substitute sources of work/income for people who refrain from their routinely jobs under overcast conditions.

They can also support in arranging fmancial

Local authorities and police:

The local authorities (municipality, urban, village councils, environmental authorities, other statutory bodies) and law enforcement entities can ensure that the public (both domestic and commercial) sectors follow government enforced regulations on lightning safety and protection. They may also educate the public on the safety procedures to be followed under emergency situations.

It is also the responsibility of the local authorities to concern on the infrastructure that required to minimize the post-event casualties. As it could be seen in incident 5 and 6, the inaccessibility to medical care in time aggravated the casualties. The Local authorities could establish first-aid centres in the locality, plan emergency transportation in advance and also emphasize on such incidents to prioritize the local vote of state budget in providing infrastructure such as hospitals, roads, bridges and improved modes of transportation to the locality. These institutions are also responsible (typical practice) for the post-disaster welfare management of a given locality.

Community leadership:

Political, social, religious and professional leaders in a given locality should take the responsibility of educating and refreshing the awareness of the community on lightning safety, re-assuring protection measures, having regular discussions on emergency plans, egresses and safety paths, distribution of rule of command among lower layers of leadership and taking most appropriate procedures in the event of disasters. As it can be seen from the incidents discussed, the safety of the minors should be a priority area that the local leadership should pay attention.

For examples; The Head of a religious place, may add lightning safety tips at the weekly post-sermon sessions, ensure that the place of worship is having proper lightning protection, instruct sub-leaders how to act in the event of a disaster and the consequential steps etc. If he is not able to meet technical requirements for protection (due to lack of engineering knowledge/skills) he may request his disciples or local authorities for providing or fmding expert support.

Another example is a company manager who sends teams of employees for outdoor sites. He should ensure that there are adequate safety sheltering facilities (refer reference [21] for low cost safety shelters) available for the workers, within easy reach, in the event of a thunderstorm. He should also instruct the subordinate team leaders on the safety procedures to be followed in the event of emergency. If he is not able to conduct


these duties either due to lack of knowledge or time constraints, he may appoint a safety manager to do so. The lower order leaders (especially in-charge) should discuss regularly with site workers on the safety procedure that they have to follow. In the event of overcast conditions, he should take the command in leading the workers for stop-work and take-shelter procedures.

Potential victim:

The lowest in the ladder but the most important element of this responsibility order is the subject that could be the potential victim. This may be any citizen that encounter the presence of overcast conditions (member of a congregation, student, outdoor worker, farmer, soldier etc.). Despite the fulfilment of duties by the higher order commands, if the potential victim does not follow the procedures the entire system of order will fail. It is highly advantageous that the potential victim aware of the procedures to be followed. However, he may simply follow the instructions of the command if he has no knowledge on the situation. It should be emphasized that unless the subject is vested with responsibility of command or he possesses very good knowledge on the safety procedures, he should not start commanding except for guiding his own family members that seek his guidance or minors who are in disarray. Multiple commanding may most often lead to total chaos resulting severe catastrophes.

F. The hierarchy of hazard control mechanism

To integrate the above order of responsibility, we propose herewith a hierarchy of hazard control module as it is shown in Figure-2. The elements of the pyramidal structure are adopted from [14] with a few modifications. The hierarchical structure of the control mechanism is depicted in Figure-2. We argue that forecasting without awareness is not meaningful as the public that have no knowledge of the consequence of lightning and thunderstorms may not understand the significance of weather forecasting. Hence we have taken "Awareness" to the top of the pyramid. Application of technology (rather than technical control) needs to be initiated at national level rather than at local level, thus it is taken two positions up on the ladder. The substitution is a process required at the lowest level thus it was placed at the bottom of the base of the pyramid.


The experience of authors in many countries in the developing world [5-7, 12-14], reveals that dis-organized safety promotion is as ineffective as no promotion, whereas, safety promotions with vested fraudulent commercial interests may be highly detrimental to the society [22]. In other words lightning safety schemes that forecast and nowcast adverse weather, documented safety guidelines, protective measures and structures formulated in the standards etc. will not be that effective unless the communities concerned are aware of the potential risks and hazards of lightning and need for the suitable safety measures to be taken. It should be emphasized that even in industrialized countries such as Malaysia, fraudulent lightning protection systems, which are totally

rejected from national and international standards, have become abundant in the market due to the lack of technological awareness among the public [23].

For an example, during the safety promotion campaigns conducted in Sri Lanka (2004-2006) under USAID funds (through SARIlEnergy program), the authors have found that many campaigners have attempted conducting lightning safety promotion programs in the same school as such schools are in areas of few well-known accidents. The easy access to the school and the friendly attitudes of school authorities have also prompted many parties to conduct programs in the same school. It is understood that safety promotion is not a once-and­ for-all type activity. The communities should be educated and re-educated periodically due to various reasons, however, the promoters should optimize the resources to give the maximum benefit to the society, especially in regions where the awareness significantly low. Repetition of the same type of program, especially to school students with gaps of few months, make them bored and start ridiculing the promoters.

It has also been observed in several parts of South Asia that leaflets, books and other printed materials in English language are distributed in areas where the people hardly understand English language. Such failures, most often are a result of the mismanagement of resources and haphazard planning.

The reference [22, 23] describes the adverse effects of awareness promotion, especially in the case of lightning protection systems, done by (or with the support of) parties that have vested vicious commercial agenda. In a large number of countries, including well-developed regions, fraudulent lightning protection systems rejected by many national and international standards are marketed in bulk though iII­ informed programs and promotional-ware.

Foreca sting Technolocy Local Control Substitution
Foreca sting
Local Control

Figure 2: Hierarchy of hazard control mechanism


One of the toughest challenges encountered by NGOs in some countries in conducting promotional programs at public institutions is to overcome the red-tapes of getting permission for the events. In Sri Lanka, a major incident happened on the 16th of August 2011 which made hospitalizing of over 500 students due to food poisoning during a seminar conducted by an NGO, triggered an outcry among the leaders to ban all NGOs from conducting such programs in schools. The food poisoning has been attributed to the snacks provided by the organizers to the students (infonnation primarily extracted from "High-powered confab want NGO's out of schools", Daily Mirror Sri Lanka, 16th August 2014). This type of obstacles could only be overcome through coordination between NGOs and Local authorities or Police.


Government J Develop and update national safety policies and guidelines Implementation of directives on
Develop and update national safety policies and guidelines
Identify the potential promoters through various state owned institution
Monitor promotional activities through appointed expert bodies and
ensure that the programs comes under the purviews of established
national policies
Scrutinize promotional modes and materials periodically with respect to
implemented safety guidelines and protection measures
Facilitate/provide potential promoters with required permissions,
accessibility and financial support
Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Coordinate with government institutions for development and execution
of programs
Design, Strategize and execute programs
Self-scrutinize materials periodically with the help of experts in the field
Evaluate the success of programs at least every 3 years
Local Authorities and Police
Check and verifY authentication of safety promoters
Facilitate smooth coordination between the authenticated safety
promoters and local institute
Monitor the programs during the period that they are conducted at local
Facilitate display of safety promotion messages at public places
Community Leadership
Encourage the community to attend awareness programs
diss eminate
among community
Provide guidance according to the guidelines learnt to the community
during disaster situations

The above discussion stresses the need for awareness promotion in a pre-determined order of responsibility that is depicted in Figure-I. The analysis of this study leads to the recommendation of the responsibilities of each layer of the hierarchy as it is given in Table-I.


Forecasting of lightning strikes (location and amplitude) is almost impossible even with few minute lead-time with the currently available technologies. Hence, the only possible on­ time lightning strike information is "nowcasting" with various techniques employed at present [24]. Such nowcasting may provide valuable information on the passage of a thunderstonn.

It should be the responsibility of the government (through Department of Meteorology) and a relevant private sector that owns region-wide lightning detection system to provide thunderstorm forecasting and lightning nowcasting information to the general public.

The mass media, especially audio-visual media such as radio and television should be an integral part of the dissemination of infonnation as such modes reach into the far corners of the rural public. Electronic media (mobile communication and internet) is also fast reaching even the communities with low-income, in the present context, as per the authors' experience in number of less-developed countries.

In many countries in South Asia, South East Asia and Africa the public speak various local languages and many communities have no understanding at all in major European languages (English, Spanish, French, and German etc.). In such cases, the need of providing accurate infonnation in local languages, in news broadcast, is an essential component of successful safety promotion.

When approaching mass public in multi-lingual news broadcast, in country with a wide spectrum of languages and dialects is not practically feasible, one should strategize the safety plans by selecting most vulnerable communities for priority attention. One good example is the mobile phone alerting service started in the fisheries communities at Lake Victoria shore in Uganda [14]. Especially for boating communities that go into deep waters, such mobile alerts will be of immense benefits.

It is also of importance to remind general public regarding typical trends of thunderstorms during the multi-day weather forecasting. For examples, in many parts of the Indian subcontinent with monsoonal climate, the inter-monsoon periods are characterized by afternoon and early evening thunderstorms (eg. incident 4, 6 and 8). Similarly, several few parts of Lake Victoria shore in Uganda, experience morning thundershowers during June-August period [14]. Also note that all 4 incidents from Africa discussed in this paper show that the accidents have happened in the afternoon or early hours of evening. Communities in such regions with anticipated


thunderstorms during certain time frames should be well reminded during the news forecasting sessions, so that the public will arrange their non-essential or pre-planned activities avoiding dangerous periods or unsafe shelters.


Lightning protection systems, designed and implemented according to international standards (eg. IEC 62305:2010) will be the best solution for minimizing human casualties and property damage. However, one should not overlook the fact that in many parts of the developing world, the cost of lightning protection systems is beyond the reach of affordability, as per the family income of most of the low­ earning societal layers [5, 6]. A majority of houses in such communities do not have belongings (including the housing structure) that can be compared with the cost of a standard lightning protection system (personal communication with rural Ugandan communities). Hence, the chances of such people adopting proper lightning protection systems with the intentions of securing the property are almost zero. On the other hand most of these structures are extremely unhealthy as far as lightning safety is concerned as it can be noticed in the indoor incidents discussed in this study. As it was discussed in reference [5, 6, 14, 21] a majority of structures in rural Africa are wooden/clay walled and thatched/tin-sheet roofed. Under such circumstances it is more appropriate to promote low-cost protection systems within their affordability that can provide at least primary human safety [21].

In many communities of less-developed countries, state intervention is highly essential in fulfilling the affordability at family level for implementing lightning protection systems. In most of these countries the state budget will permit only a very limited number of cases to be subsidized. In such cases, local authorities may be of assistance to identify the priority cases. NGOs may also support in both funding and identifying vulnerable cases. Experts in the non-profit earning fields (academics and government servants) may give their assistance in designing, developing or selecting the most appropriate lightning protection systems.

As in the case of incident 4 where people are compelled to work outdoors even when the predictions are for an overcast day, on-site protection systems could be located for the potential victims to seek shelter at least during the thunderstorm. Simple protection measures can be taken for safe guarding boats and other water vessels whereas all-metal structures such as abandoned cargo containers modified for human occupation for a short period, placed at workplaces, open religion practicing yards, school grounds etc. will be of high benefits [21].

Local Control:

Despite the consensus that may be reached among the public regarding the actions to be taken on receiving the forecasting of adverse weather information, in real situations of natural hazards, public need local directives in starting safety

procedures. Such directives and leadership are required in any societal layer; however the need of such is more significant in less-educated and low income societies than in affluent societies.

In the case of various natural disasters such as flooding, landslides, earthquakes, fires etc. it has been observed that the behavior and response of the victims becomes unpredictable and in most cases chaotic [25-27]. Eyewitnesses interviewed by the authors during the post-Tsunami period (2004) in Sri Lanka revealed that all communities, which survived with minimal losses, were the ones that had local command by the societal leaders. In the absence of such local leadership or pre­ implemented warning/path directing systems, people have not taken steps to follow even the very basic and general guidelines, such as moving to a solid elevated location. Similar information was obtained during the informal interviews by the authors with survivors of 2005 earthquake in Azad Jammu Kashmir in Pakistan.

Safety against an instantaneous random disaster event, such as lightning, needs even better local control than that is required for other events. Such local directives are easier to be implemented in a bound-community that in a loose community. Lightning warning systems positioned at exposed and potentially dangerous location is one such safety precaution. Open decks, elevated workspaces, open lands, riverbanks and sea/lake shore are few examples of such vulnerable places. Special attention should be given to the mode of warning, especially during the night-time where visibility is poor. Local authorities and community leadership should take the responsibility of ensuring the uninterrupted operation of such systems. A non-working warning system may be more dangerous than having no warning system as people may be given sense of false safety by such out-of-order systems. While the directives such as warning systems and display systems for egresses etc. play a vital role in the event of a disaster, it is equally important that the steps to be taken by the public under such circumstance should also be known to them.

There should also be a local command to give instructions on stop/start activities, directing for appropriate sheltering, and start substitute work etc. under thunderstorm conditions. The commanding leadership should have proper training to take the best decision on timing. The local commanding entity may be the superiors in a workspace, village/community head, land­ lord, religious leaders, teachers, responsible civil servants, doctors, police etc.

The experience in 2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka and 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan shows that most often the local control becomes successful only when the local leadership that command the directives has a natural tendency to influence the potential victims during the event.


It is a well-established fact that in the event of natural disasters, wealth is negatively associated with risk [16]. Such


trends are not applicable to lightning as pre-disaster evacuation (leaving death behind) is not required in almost all cases. On the other hand wealth at both domestic and industrial levels encourage the owners to seek lightning protection. However, issue that arises in lightning risk management is the aversion for abandoning the planned work to avoid potential lightning hazards in many communities [14]. In many low-income societies, the people who work for daily wages, may ignore lightning risk warning, as the loss of day's payment may cause unbearable ramifications for them. This is evident in the case of accidents in incident 7. Many other accidents reported in South Asia and Africa [5-8] show similar trends in the under­ privileged societies that have resulted large number of lightning related accidents.

Such adverse human tendencies cannot be rectified solely by promoting awareness and education. A suitable mechanism is required to compensate for the lost wages of people who decide to abandon their work on lightning risk warning. NGOs, local authorities and local leadership may support the potential victim to achieve this task. Reference [14] give one example for such substitution. That is; providing indoor activity such as sorting and processing harvest, repairing of agricultural tools, discussions on water management and weeding etc., to the agricultural communities when they have to stop outdoor farming. Another example could be the arrangement of work such as net and boat repairing, processing harvested commodities (dried fish, salted fish etc.), repairing or refurbishing pier etc.

However, one should note that such substitution will be quite subjective as the replacement jobs are very much community dependent. The alternative tasks should be planned without hurting the other members of the community whose regular job may be the substitution. Hence, although many hierarchies higher up on the pyramid may provide or facilitate substitute work, directives to take up such work should be done by pre-detennined community leaders.



Eight lightning accidents that caused multiple deaths have been analyzed. The accidents are selected from developing countries from South Asia and Africa. Lightning risk scenarios of both indoor and outdoor, pertinent to the incidents presented have been analyzed and discussed. It has been identified that there is no uniform safety promotion module that may be applicable to all communities with success. This observation leads us to develop a hierarchy of hazard control mechanism that may be applicable to any given bound community. A social group can be treated as a bound community if they have uniformity with respect to profession, religion, social practices and living style. An order of responsibility and hierarchy of hazard control mechanism have been developed based on various observations. The developed module could be adopted by designers of lightning safety promotion at various levels (state, NGO, academia, local authorities etc.), especially in

developing world, and modify with appropriately selected modes and tools to minimize deaths and injuries as well as property damage due to lightning.


The authors would like to thank Centre for Electromagnetics and Lightning Protection (CELP), and Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia for the invaluable support in making this study a success



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