Commemorating International Lightning Safety Day (ILSD) – June 28th, 2020
ACLENet and ILSD share a common catalyst for their formation - a single lightning strike killed eighteen pupils and a teacher with thirty-eight pupils hospitalized for days on June 28th, 2011, at Runyanya Primary School in Kiryandongo district, Uganda. A block of four classrooms was damaged and later abandoned because users considered it haunted as lightning had hit the same building and caused injuries less than a decade before. – This was a big and impactful incident that affected many families and the entire community around the school.
It also attracted the attention of the world.
It highlighted the high loss of human life, destruction of property, and lack of practical solutions to address the natural hazard of lightning -- the most frequent weather threat to life that most people around the world encounter.
In September 2011, the Non-Aligned Movement Science and Technology Centre (NAM-S&T Centre) organized an international meeting on lightning, bringing together experts from many areas, all interested in the science of lightning, lightning protection and lightning safety, in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal in the Himalayas. A lot of talk focused on the Runyanya incident.
A successor 2013 NAM meeting in Uganda led to ACLENet's formation. It is hoped that the relationship between the NAM S&T Centre and ACLENet will continue as the Centre has a role to play in supporting ACLENet by organizing annual symposia for improving lightning safety and in bringing together people from many nations interested in preventing lightning injury, death and property damage. In fact, ACLENet's Second Scientific Symposium in 2015 in Zambia, also supported by NAM, is when International Lightning Safety Day (ILSD) was first proposed.
The idea of ILSD was rekindled for 2020 by our 2015 Zambian conference host, Foster Lubasi Chileshe, nurtured by the National Lightning Safety Council of the USA and instituted by Dr Shriram Sharma, host of the 2011 Kathmandu NAM S&T conference where this all started. South Asian for Lightning Network (SALNet) hosted a Zoom conference on 25-26 June with attendees from lightning safety programs and disaster preparedness agencies from over a dozen countries (to hear the presentations).
ILSD is a commemoration of the young lives lost at Runyanya Primary School.
It is also a commemoration of the birth of ACLENet.
Every year, ILSD shall remind us of our mission on the African continent --
To reduce deaths, injuries and property damage from lightning.