Protecting the Public: How communities and school districts are informing, alerting and responding to severe weather – specifically lightning

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Amena Ali, Earth Networks, Germantown, MD; and D. Chai

In October 2012, lightning struck and killed 11-year- old Jessie Watlington at football practice in Ft. Myers, Florida. In May 2012, four teenage girls in Indiana were injured when lightning hit their softball field. Tragic events like these are a major concern for school administrators, athletic directors and community leaders charged with protecting students and emphasize the need for new approaches to lightning and severe weather safety. To help keep students and the public safe from severe weather, communities nationwide are turning to real-time weather and alerting systems and tools. In southern Florida – the U.S. lightning capital -- lightning sensors and outdoor alerting systems are making public high schools and parks in Lee County safer places. Across the state, Broward County Public Schools is using a customized version of the WeatherBug mobile app with expanded severe weather alerting to help inform school administrators, teachers and staff. In New Jersey, policy makers have so much faith in the technology that residents must heed the outdoor alerting sirens indicating that lightning is nearby to avoid a fine up to $1,000. This presentation will provide an overview of how technology, tools, public education/awareness and policy are working together to keep the public safer from severe weather.