Web Exclusive - April 2020
Find a printable version here

Bad Weather, Good Decisions


A topic that should never be taken lightly—or for granted—is safety. It's hardly shocking that many have tested the theory of operating in "rain or shine," but when lightning is seen or heard, it's essential to go inside and stay safe.

The Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) has a membership base full of professional field managers at the forefront of safety. Facility administrators at the parks and recreation level work around the clock to keep visitors and staff safe, and when it comes to severe weather, these professionals have consistently made the switch to using predictive technology.

Accuracy is the key variable differentiating detection systems versus predictive. Unlike detection systems, predictive technology analyzes information 20 times faster than anyone else and anticipates lightning strikes (including "bolts out of the blue"), high windstorms, severe storms and even dangerous heat levels. When severe weather is on the way, a variety of warning mechanisms are triggered alerting those in the danger zone.

Andrew Couture, site supervisor for Orange County Parks and Recreation in Orlando, Fla., trusts one organization when it comes to severe weather safety. For more than 25 years, his facilities within Orange County have utilized Thor Guard's lightning prediction system.

Couture and his staff manage 20 facilities and have recognized how impactful the technology has been for the community. "We trust [it] at all of our facilities. We have systems installed at all our ball fields, most of our soccer fields, and then our couple swimming sites have them. When the alarms go off, we clear the area immediately," Couture said. "We've also established safety plans based on our systems. If it's at a baseball field, we clear the baseball field, and send everyone to the parking lot. If it is at a swimming pool, we have everyone get out of the swimming pool."

Facility managers must be equipped with the best tools to properly protect their parks and evaluate dangers. Educating staff on precaution procedures for buildings/fields and best practices is required and will create a safe place for people to enjoy.

The system Orange County relies on predicts lightning strikes and even tornadoes in advance. This advanced technology has continued to evolve since its inception in 1976, now analyzing 170,000 atmospheric samples per second. The results have been impressive; the reports have shown a nearly 90% accuracy rating for successfully predicting severe weather readings.

Here are few reasons why you should consider investing in a predictive technology system:

1. Avoid potential injuries (or worse).
Most weather-related injuries happen as a result of a lack in preparation. If you don't have a predictive weather system installed, you are left vulnerable in the event of an unexpected storm. If patrons in the surrounding areas aren't alerted of a storm in time, people will be scrambling to find safety. It's these moments of worry that increase the chances for injury (or worse death); an issue that could have been avoided.

2. More accurate readings.
Humans cannot simply look at the sky and determine whether a lightning strike is going to occur with consistent accuracy. Predictive technology gives an accurate reading of the weather, so you have time to plan and prepare. Thor Guard has studied more than 100 million hours of lightning strike data and kept evolving their systems to always improve. With their newest system, the company has successfully met demands of facility leaders against all severe weather events including lightning strikes, tornadoes (beta version) and even dangerous heat index levels.

3. Save money.
If someone happens to get injured at your facility, you are now potentially held responsible both for facility damage and any personal injuries to those involved. If someone suggests protection is too costly, they may forget to mention or fully develop a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis. The upfront unit cost may lower your insurance costs and pays itself off overtime because it provides a peace of mind.

Situations change over time, sometimes quickly and with little/no notice, making it difficult to identify and control hazards. Preventing potential accidents and tragedy requires discipline and diligence, so investing in prevention early on will only bring positive benefits financially.

Investing in predictive technology is a decision that will only bring positive results. It will create an additional level of safety that your patrons will be appreciative of and thank you for in the long run.