Lightning notification system for Eastland ball parks and athletic fields
EASTLAND, TEXAS – Summertime! Baseball season! Thunderstorm season. Everyone knows the dangers of standing on a flat surface outside during a thunderstorm… or when lightning is in the area. According to the National Weather Service, lightning causes an average of 62 deaths and 300 injuries in the United States each year, with Texas having the dubious distinction of being number two in lightning deaths. Only Florida has more deaths caused by lightning strikes.
During a thunderstorm, avoid open spaces, trees, telephone booths, and ballparks. The safest place to be is in a building, preferably one with a lightning rod. The rod offers protection by intercepting lightning—an electrical charge—and transmitting its current into the ground. The other safe place is a car with the windows rolled up, as long as you don’t touch any of the metal parts. If lightning strikes, the car’s metal body will conduct the charge down to the ground—contrary to popular belief, the rubber of the wheels offers no protection.
During baseball season, we have quite a bit of activity at our local ball fields, and it is very difficult to inform every person at the event when lightning becomes a danger. The Eastland Youth Sports Advisory Board met at City Hall to discuss emergency management procedures and methods of notification. The board decided to adopt a new notification and field evacuation protocol when lightning is detected in our area during sporting events.
The notification process has been very cumbersome in the past, resulting in delays that could have disastrous consequences. The City of Eastland will now utilize the CodeRED system to notify coaches via cell phone when lightning is detected within 30 miles of Eastland and appears to be heading toward us. This will enable them to prepare for evacuation of the fields when necessary. When lightning is detected within 10 miles of Eastland, the new outdoor warning siren system will be used to notify people at the ball fields to immediately seek shelter. In the past, we have used only three of the warning tones on the system.
The first tone, called the “alert” tone, is a continuous three-minute tone that warns of tornado, high winds, or large hail.
The second tone, called the “discontinuous air horn” tone, sounds like an intermittent air horn, and it warns of hazardous material spills, such as train derailments, tanker truck accidents, etc.
The third tone, called “hi-lo” tone, is an alternating high-pitch tone followed by a low-pitch tone, and it is used to warn of flash floods.
For lightning alerts and mandatory field evacuation, a new tone called the “whoop” tone will be used, and it will be broadcast only on the one siren that is closest to the ball complex. When participants and spectators at sporting events hear the “whoop” tone, they should immediately evacuate the ball fields and seek shelter inside a building or a car. A police officer will be dispatched to the ball complex to ensure that everyone has left the field.
Remember… lightning can kill with no prior warning. Don’t take chances!