What are the rules if lightning occurs during a San Antonio high school outdoor sporting event?

While the UIL offers lightning safety tips, it’s up to the individual school districts to make specific protocols

Texas high school football is one reason we love fall so much around here. But, we know that fall often brings fronts and more active weather to San Antonio. So what are the protocols should a storm approach during a football game or any outdoor sporting event?

The University Interscholastic League, or UIL, issues lightning safety recommendations, including encouraging school districts to “establish a chain of command that identifies who is to make the call to remove individuals from the field.” However, it is up to each individual school district to make the call when it comes to weather. Not all the districts have the same methods or rules. Here’s a look at some of the larger districts in our area and their policies:


Most school districts, we found, employ apps to aid them in their decision-making. There are several apps that will alert administrators about nearby lightning strikes.

If all else fails, the old-school flash-to-bang method can be utilized. The flash-to-bang method is used by counting the time between when lightning is sighted to when you hear thunder. You divide the count by five to determine the distance.


If lightning is detected, an announcement will immediately be made and the field will be cleared.

Per UIL recommendations, once activities have been suspended, SAISD will wait at least thirty minutes following the last sound of thunder or lightning flash within a 10-mile radius before resuming an activity or returning outdoors. Once there has been no lightning strike for 30 minutes, play may resume.


NISD’s general rule is “if one can hear thunder or see lightning, all outdoor activities need to be moved indoors or canceled.”

From there, Northside’s protocols state: “You may resume activities only after lightning has been indicated outside a 20-mile radius”. The weather app they utilize will send a text or push notification once lightning has moved outside the 20-mile range. They also encourage those in charge to “postpone or suspend activity if a thunderstorm appears imminent before or during an activity or contest (irrespective of whether lightning is seen or thunder is heard) until the hazard has passed.”


North East ISD also relies on a weather app. Their protocols state that when a suspicious cloud/storm approaches, the athletic trainer, head coach, assistant coach or administrator will monitor the app. Once the storm reaches within a 10-mile range, the field should be evacuated.

Play can resume once “the lightning has moved out of the ten-mile radius” per the weather app, or if lightning has no longer been detected within a 10 mile-range for 30 consecutive minutes. A clear notification will be given by the app, once all the criteria have been met.


According to the Judson ISD handbook “lightning will be monitored by the athletic trainers and coaches” via a weather app.

If the lightning is between 10 and 18 miles, coaches and trainers will prepare to move everyone indoors. Once the lightning is within 10 miles, the athletic trainer will notify all coaches that lightning is in the warning range and everyone should move indoors immediately.

From there, Judson ISD says, “Once the threat has passed, and 30 minutes have elapsed since the last lightning activity detected within the 10-mile range, coaches will receive an alert text/email from their Athletic Trainer stating that all is clear in the area and they may return outside.”

About the Author:

Justin Horne is a meteorologist and reporter for KSAT 12 News. When severe weather rolls through, Justin will hop in the KSAT 12 Storm Chaser to safely bring you the latest weather conditions from across South Texas. On top of delivering an accurate forecast, Justin often reports on one of his favorite topics: Texas history.