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


Hierarchy ofHazard Control to Minimize Lightning

Ashen Gomes

Chandima Gomes

Centre for Electromagnetics and Lightning Protection

Universiti Putra Malaysia
Serdang, Malaysia

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 of control, 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

978-1-4799-3544-4/14/$31.00 2014 IEEE

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.



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.

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
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
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).
Incident 8: On the 15t of April 2008, four soldiers were
killed and 59 others were injured when lightning struck a

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.

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,
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.

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
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.

providers etc. They can also support in arranging fmancial

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.

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


Local Authority and Police

Community Leadership

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.

Potential Victim

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


Figure 1:

Local authorities and police:

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

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.

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.

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.


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


Fo re ca sting

Tech nolocy

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.




Develop and update national safety policies and guidelines


of directives





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







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








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

Participate at awareness programs and disseminate the knowledge
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
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.

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

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