Monday, April 13, 2015

Lightning, The Safety Of Our Members, Guests and Staff

I was going through a social media site the other night and saw a great post from AccuWeather regarding Lightning Safety. The link gives you the full article but thought I would pass along our procedures we follow at Glen Echo.

We use a service from DTN which supplies us with on-time lightning strikes. It does not determine if lightning can potentially occur but that lightning has actually been identified. It has a standard radar map with  a 20 and 8 mile radius from Glen Echo.

The pro shop and maintenance staff work together when a forecast calls for the potential of thunderstorms which can carry lightning. The maintenance staff are on the outside watching the sky for visible lightning or hearing thunder. The pro shop is monitoring the incoming storm to determine if lightning strikes are being detected inside the alert areas. I usually receive a call or text from the staff alerting me that strikes are moving into the 20 mile area. Working outside gives us a jump on quick hitting storms that are not expected. We will contact the pro shop requesting they look at the radar to see if something is happening when cloud formations appear to be severe.

Usually a storm will show its true colors before it arrives to our location and its pretty obvious everyone should move to a protected site. There are situations when lightning does not occur until it forms overhead and no advance notice is given. There are also occasions when the storm approaches us and dissipates or loses its energy. We are sorry for the inconvenience this may create when you are pulled off the course and then nothing happens but lightning rarely gives 2nd chances. Our jobs are to protect the welfare of members, guests and staff.

Once lightning moves into the 20 mile range, notification is given to myself and staff. I will usually move my staff closer to the maintenance building since some of their equipment is slower. The site is monitored for strikes up to the 8 mile range. Once the 8 mile border is breached, the pro shop will sound a long horn blast from an air horn to evacuate the course. The blast is not the okay to evacuate the course once your finish the hole. The blast is to proceed to safety immediately because lightning strikes have been located within the kill zone which is less than 8 miles for a majority of lightning/human strikes.

The best site to evacuate would be the pro shop and or clubhouse. A secondary/last resort facility would be the Field Bar if you are on the far end of the course. Usually a second horn is sounded at a further area out onto the course so those of you at the far end can here as well. We make every attempt to pick up walking members who are out on the course. If you do not see someone coming to your aid, call the pro shop to make sure someone is on their way for you. Maintenance members in carts on the course are able to pick up members as well. I usually send a group text or we come out and find each individual employee to insure that they are coming in. You might assist our staff as well if you hear the blast and they do not appear to react. They might not of heard the horn sound. All individuals on property are treated the same when it comes to lightning safety. We want everyone safe.

All members, guests and employees should proceed to the closest shelter. Shelter does not include tall trees as this could become a target for lightning!

Once the lightning has cleared and the course is deemed playable, another horn blast will be given to begin play. Bright sun on the back of a storm is not the go ahead to begin play. Please do not place yourself, guests, and staff in danger by beginning play before an all clear is given.  

We usually wait until at least 15 or 20 minutes since the last bolt of lightning and or thunder occurs. Thunder does not occur without lightning, allow me to repeat this in bold letters.


Just because you do not see it does not mean it is not there. A cloud to cloud lightning bolt can become a cloud to ground in the blink of an eye.

Also, remember if heavy rain occurs, the course usually will not open once lightning has passed.  It will reopen when the water has drained down enough so that our playing surfaces are okay for play. Heavy rain will usually close the course for a minimum of 45-60 minutes depending upon amount of rain. This would be another reason if at all possible that golfers should come back to the pro shop but sometimes that is not possible.

Another excellent link for Severe Weather 101. Great questions and answers regarding lightning to help you understand the severity of this deadly force. Over 50% of lightning deaths occur on golf courses and a majority of all lightning deaths are men. Do we not listen, are we too stubborn, nah that can't be it could it? There are more men participating which probably increases our chances.

I tend to be more on the cautious side of lightning and incoming storms.  Large trees, metal objects such as golf clubs and equipment are big targets in attracting lightning and wind which can snap limbs and endanger all of us as well. We appreciate your cooperation during these events.

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