2014-01-31 / Front Page

Fort Gordon lightning system protects patrons at sports venues

By Bonnie Heater
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office

Fort Gordon recently installed a guard lightning detection system to provide early warning for actual or potential dangerous lightning.

According to Vincent A. Pacchiana, Fort Gordon’s installation emergency manager, the system has been provided for the safety of all service members, their family members, civilians and all patrons using outdoor facilities or attending outdoor events on Fort Gordon.

“In the United States there is an average of 53 people killed each year by lightning, and hundreds more that are severely injured,” said Pacchiana.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 percent of people struck by lightning die, most commonly due to heart attack. Other lightning injuries include blunt trauma, neurological syndromes that are usually temporary, muscle injuries, eye injuries (lightning induced cataract), skin lesions and burns.

The lightning prediction system senses the ‘chance of lightning’, not necessarily the occurrence of lightning. The system senses the chance of lightning within a 5-mile area around the main sensor by measuring the static electricity between earth and sky. It’s designed to provide 24-hour monitoring of electrostatic energy (lightning) in the air.

“When lightning is imminent, a single 15-second loud horn blast will alert of the impending danger, as will a flashing strobe light,” Pacchiana explained. “When this occurs individuals should seek safe shelter in a building or hard top vehicle.”

If outside during a thunderstorm, and there’s no available shelter, the CDC recommends you crouch down into a ball-like position: put your feet together, squat low, tuck your head, and cover your ears. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly over 100-feet away. Crouching down is the best combination of being low and touching the ground as little as possible. This is a last resort. Seek safe shelter first and don’t lie on the ground or seek shelter under a tree.

The system’s air horns can be heard at an audible range of about 2,000 feet from each detection system.

When the electrostatic levels drop to a safe level, which indicates no potential or actual lightning in the area, the system will sound three five-second blasts and the strobes will cease, indicating that it is all clear and safe to come out, explained Pacchiana.

The air horn audio alarm and visual yellow strobes are located on the roof of Gym 3, Rice Road adjacent to the Barton Field stage, and the baseball complex located at 25th Street and Brainard Avenue.

An additional alarm and strobe is expected to be installed in the future at the Sports Complex on Brainard Avenue and 40th Street, according to Pacchiana.

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