Howard County’s Department of Recreation & Parks has installed a new outdoor lightning alert system within six of the county’s eight regional parks: Blandair Park, Cedar Lane Park, Rockburn Branch Park, Schooley Mill Park, Troy Park and Western Regional Park. Additional alert systems are expected to be operational at Savage Park and Centennial Park by this fall.
“Howard County is always looking for ways to improve our community, and this is an important step for making our parks, sports, and programs safer year-round for our residents,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.
Designed to provide advanced warning so that park users have time to seek shelter during a thunderstorm, the state-of-the-art alert system is one of many improvements Howard County is making to its public parks in the coming year.
“The Department now has a system in place to warn park visitors of approaching thunderstorms and give them time to safely seek shelter” said Director of the Department of Recreation & Parks Raul Delerme.
Each unit is comprised of a high-decibel horn and strobe light, providing 360 degrees of audible and visual coverage. The horn and strobe light will activate for 15-seconds once the unit senses lightning within 10 miles of the park. After the unit has activated, all activities (including games and practices) will cease so that park visitors may seek shelter. Once lightning is no longer a threat, the horn will sound in three five-second bursts to alert park users that activities, games and practices may resume.
“This system brings intelligent alert and warning to these parks making patrons better able to make decisions regarding their safety,” said Office of Emergency Management Director Michael Hinson
During activation of the lightning alert system, Howard County asks that park users find a shelter with a roof and four walls or within their vehicle. It is not recommended to seek shelter under a pavilion or other semi-open space.
The project was a team effort between the Department of Recreation & Parks, the Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Technology and Communication Services.