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Best Practices: Lightning Policies

Swimming Pool Lightning Safety

As summer fast approaches, you’re probably preparing your outdoor pool for a long, and hopefully hot summer. But with summer, and warm weather, come thunderstorms and lightning.

There are many different ways to protect your patrons and staff from the dangers of lightning strikes; some cost money, some require training, but all will keep everyone safer.

Lightning and Your Pool Safety

Lightning is one of, if not the most, dangerous types of weather we in the aquatics industry regularly encounter. You probably have a policy or standard in place to protect your patrons and staff. Or maybe you’re interested in developing, changing, or improving your policy. Whatever the reason, it’s an important subject to address. So let’s get right into some methods for keeping your swimming pool safe during lightning storms.

Lightning Alert Systems/Resources

One of the most effective methods for handling lightning around the pool environment is to utilize lightning alert or prediction systems.

There are two popular choices amongst aquatic professionals: Thor Guard is probably the most effective system, which is commonly used by aquatics organizations. Another option is through the Weather Bug’s Spark Map. While these options offer fundamentally different things, both have their benefits, and drawbacks, that you will need to think about when considering implementing them.

Thor Guard

Thor Guard is a lightning prediction system. It uses data collected by an installed system at your location(s). Though they vary in price and sophistication, all the Thor Guard systems utilize proprietary atmospheric electrostatic analysis in order to predict lightning and provide warnings of lightning danger to your facility.

Weather Bug - Spark

While not a prediction system, the online and mobile service of Weather Bug’s Spark Map can show you up to date information of recorded lightning strikes in your area. While not as accurate as having a lightning system directly at your facility, this free tool is a no brainer to add to your staff’s training and your procedures.

Flash to Bang Method

One of the most common methods of handling thunderstorms and lightning is employing the “Flash to Bang Method”. That is, counting the seconds between a flash of lightning and the thunder it produces to estimate the distance of the lightning. This method is probably the most commonly used system for lightning safety. Even the NCAA employs it. In this method, every 5 seconds between the lightning flash and the thunder bang is equal to roughly 1 mile. More simply 1 mile = 5 seconds.

What is key is making sure you or your trained staff are on the lookout for the storms, and counting appropriately (one-one thousand, etc.). When using this method it is important to determine at what point you want to clear your pool for the safety of your staff and patrons. Whether it’s when the lightning is 10 miles away, or 2 miles away, make sure you factor in the time it takes to get everyone to a safe location when deciding.

Lightning Policies

It is important to make sure your staff are trained and aware of what your policies are regarding lightning, and to determine the distance at which you want to begin moving patrons and staff to safe locations. Whether it’s using the free tool of Weather Bug’s Spark, the Flash to Bang Method, or when your Thor Guard system predicts lightning strikes are imminent, make sure your staff is informed of the safe areas that they should direct patrons to. Often times, the safest place for patrons may be in their cars if your facility doesn’t have a large enough central building. No matter what system you use to predict, detect, or react to lightning, it’s important to keep everyone clear of the pool and in safe areas until 30 minutes after the last flash and bang is heard.

Lightning Safety Reminders for the Swimming Pool

Here are some other safety reminders that are particularly pertinent for swimming pools:

  • Keep bathrooms, especially showers off/empty when you clear the facility for lightning.
  • Outdoor Shelters and gazebos are not safe to stay under during thunderstorms.
  • Keep patrons and staff off of phone land lines.

Dealing with Backlash

Regardless of your policy regarding lightning safety at your swimming pool, it’s inevitable that you’ll receive patron complaints when you clear your facility for lightning.

Some helpful tips to minimize the backlash of your policy are:

  • Make sure your lightning policy is clearly stated, and posted around your facility.
  • Explain to patrons who have voiced complaints that it is for their safety and the safety of your staff.
  • Offer rain-checks to patrons when possible.

Resources for Lightning Information

Below are some excellent resources for information regarding lightning in general and for creating policies.

Have any other tips to ease patron concerns with lightning? What is the policy you and your organization have in place? Let us know below!

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