If a storm approaches the Center Grove area, an air horn and strobe light will sound an alarm that serves as a warning of the possibility of lightning.
Coaches will be alerted to delay a game or get the student athletes to safety.
To keep student athletes and spectators safe during stormy weather, Center Grove High School and Center Grove Middle School North each installed a lightning detection and prediction system.
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The schools are about three miles apart, and with each system covering a 2½-mile radius, all but two Center Grove school buildings and athletics fields will be covered when lightning is nearby.
The homes and playgrounds in between could see or hear the warning, too.
Each system comes with a radar, strobe light and air horn to notify residents about lightning in the area. The systems cost $55,400 total. A radar sensor scans up to 2½ miles away to search for weather conditions that could produce lightning. If a potential lightning strike is nearby, a strobe light and air horn will go off automatically. The system will search for potential lightning strikes throughout the day, alerting the school district during recess or outdoor physical education classes.
The systems installed will cover all school buildings except North Grove and Maple Grove elementary schools and the transportation and operations center. Those buildings will receive message alerts from the lightning system company, even though they will not be covered in the 2½-mile radius, Center Grove spokeswoman Stacy Conrad said.
“This technology allows us to have extra warning when dangerous lightning is in our area so our staff and coaches can get students and spectators to safety,” Conrad said. “Our middle schools and high school host dozens of events outdoors every month, not including the hundreds of hours our students spend outside practicing for those events.”
The system was activated March 1 in preparation of spring sports.
Other local schools rely on smartphones, weather stations and keeping an eye on the sky to detect lightning and notify coaches.
Both Franklin and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school districts use a smartphone app called WeatherBug Spark that detects lightning in the area. Every coach is encouraged to download the app, and the athletic directors use it as well, Franklin director of operations Bill Doty said. Teachers can use the app during school field trips where students might be walking to their destination, he said.
In the case of lightning during sporting events, games typically are delayed for at least 30 minutes after lightning strikes, but schools sometimes move games to a different night, officials said. The spring season tends to have more severe weather that would cause delays, said Cameron Rains, Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum and instruction.
No school district has had an issue with danger during lightning storms in the past five years, officials said. On one spring afternoon years ago, a Little League team spotted a funnel cloud in the distance in Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school district, but no severe danger from lightning has occurred recently, director of learning and instruction Andy Cline said.
“Prediction, if it’s accurate, what a great resource to have,” Doty said of Center Grove’s system.
Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson also has a weather station on the roof of Indian Creek Intermediate School, which updates the school district through an Indianapolis television weather team, Cline said.
Clark-Pleasant schools rely on a text message system to alert coaches and players of severe weather in the area, Rains said, and the athletic director has a hand-held device for coaches to use on the field.