Here in Indiana and Illinois, we face a variety of serious weather conditions that can be life-threatening. These hazards to health and safety include tornadoes, high winds, blizzards, black ice, flash flooding, thunderstorms, and lighting strikes. People die from bad weather accidents in our part of the country.
Severe Weather Means High Risk for Injury in Accidents
Obviously, severe weather endangers lives and property. However, different weather conditions can cause accidents that seriously hurt victims or even cause their deaths in very different ways.
Statistics reveal that the risk of being seriously injured or killed in a weather-related accident is rising. Consider the following:
1. Lightning Strikes
By mid-August 2016, there had already been more people killed by lightning strikes in the United States than in the entire past year, positioning last year to break historical records for deaths by lightning strikes. Most of these deaths occurred during thunderstorm warnings according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Last August, the Indianapolis area was preyed upon by 7 different tornadoes during one scary night. The National Weather Service confirmed central Indiana’s weather broke records, as the crowd of tornadoes moved through central Indiana, including one massive EF-1 Tornado that came very near to densely-populated Indianapolis.
3. Flash Flooding
Flooding makes sense, of course. The intense storms that bring the danger of tornadoes and lightning strikes have heavy rainfall. So much rain coming down in a short amount of time means flash flooding, another danger to human life to be respected here in Indiana and Illinois.
A recent example: the huge flash flooding that hit central Indiana last August after those seven tornadoes went through here. Weather reports are that one inch of rain fell in a single half-hour in Indianapolis, and that was just the beginning.
Different Weather Dangers Require Different Kinds of Safety Measures
Thunderstorms can bring the risk of lightning strikes to those on the golf course or on the school playing field. These storms can bring high winds that can kill.
Tornadoes can erupt in a community within minutes and quickly move through a widespread area. Flash floods are notorious for how fast they become dangerous and life-threatening.
These are serious weather conditions with very different dangers. Keeping people safe from a lightning strike during a thunderstorm requires different things than the steps needed to keep everyone safe during a tornado or a flash flood.
Legal Duty to Keep People Safe during Dangerous Weather Conditions
Employers, School Districts, Nursing Care Facilities, Shopping Centers, Grocery Stores, Restaurants, College Dorms, Sports Arenas, Entertainment Venues, and more all have a duty to keep people safe from harm while on their premises.
This is a legal duty imposed by the premises liability laws of Indiana and Illinois. It includes being prepared in advance to keep everyone safe from harm should a sudden weather danger arise.
How? They should have training and procedures in place in the event of a flash flood, severe thunderstorm, or tornado.
Legally, these businesses, schools, health care facilities, event promoters, etc., should all have systems in place to be alert to weather conditions. They should have procedures ready to be implemented to keep people safe during these weather conditions. And they should have tools and techniques at the ready to use as part of their safety operations during bad weather.
- Guidelines should be set and ready to follow on when to cancel a sporting event, a school day, or to close down business operations (like a bar or restaurant) due to dangerous weather.
- These guidelines should include instructions on how to notify the public that the event is cancelled or operations have been closed due to weather.
- Shopping malls, grocery stores, and public garages should have barricades and traffic cones stored and ready to place in parking lots and driveways to keep traffic out of flooding areas.
- For anyone trapped on the premises due to bad weather conditions, there should be advanced preparations stockpiled, including water, blankets, flashlights, and battery-operated weather radios to monitor the weather situation.
March 2017: National Severe Weather Awareness Month
This month, NOAA promoted a national public awareness campaign on weather preparedness and being alert and ready for dangerous weather conditions. Lots of things are happening here in Indiana and Illinois as part of the NOAA campaign, including last week’s statewide tornado drill in Indiana.
We support these efforts and encourage everyone to investigate and be aware of the weather safety procedures in place at their workplace and school, as well as those of their loved ones. And to be aware that there are premises liability laws in place to get justice for those victims of dangerous weather who have been harmed by the neglect of another.
For more, see our discussion of the Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse Tragedy, where high winds caused the stage to topple, resulting in the deaths of seven people and injuring many others.
Those of us living and working in Indiana and Illinois understand how serious our weather conditions can be, regardless of the time of year. However, it’s just as important for all of us to know there are legal duties and responsibilities under the law to keep people safe from harm during bad weather. Neglecting safety laws gets people hurt and killed. Let’s be careful out there!