Another available safety feature
The safety of our children is of paramount importance to the City of Ormond Beach, Fla., and especially so to its Parks and Recreation Department. It is for that reason we have taken the initiative to install a not-so-inexpensive Thor Guard Lightning Detector System, says David Abee.
What does that mean for the playground? Added safety with the two Thor Guard devices installed at the Nova Community Park and Magic Playground. The reason they were interested in the Thor Guard system is that through its use, an untold number of lives are saved every year. This includes not only on playgrounds, but also on golf courses, baseball diamonds and other outdoor sporting venues.
Abee, the Recreation Manager for the City's Leisure Services Division, also notes, "We were very fortunate that the City Commission approved the funding for the plan that we put together for the protection of our users. The systems that we have are installed on the tops of the concessionary stands and restroom facilities. We felt that this would give us the largest coverage areas because that is where a great number of people congregate, and it would cover the Magic Playground. Prior to the installation, we contacted all concerned user groups to get their input and include the community in our discussions."
This system is gaining more support as people are educated about it. They appreciate the benefits of building a protective shield around everyone using these facilities. After all, the bottom line is that it is their tax dollars that are funding it.
"The central section of the state is frequently known as the 'Lightning Strike Capital' of the United States. It is for that reason we felt it imperative to protect the Nova Community Park and Playground and the children, and their parents who avail themselves of our facilities," says Abee.
Will Cardwell of Daytona Beach first brought his eight-year-old daughter, Katelyn and seven-year-old son Billy to the Magic Playground after seeing a piece on local television about it. Now they frequently make the eight-mile trip because of the feeling of safety it provides.
Connie Sciffler from nearby Orange City also brings her children, Trey, age 4, Katy, age 6, and Robert, age 15. She commented that her older son takes advantage of the skateboarding trails available as well as interacts with and watches over his siblings.
"The playground is so compact that there is always a parent close enough to come to the aid if a child should take an inadvertent tumble and break out in tears, too," says Cardwell.
This 35-acre park includes The Magic Forest Playground, several soccer fields, several baseball diamonds, batting practice cages and other open air amenities, as well as a large enclosed building for basketball games, etc. A remote controlled model airplane club has also been granted exclusive permission to use part of a rehabilitated and restored landfill that was closed 15 years ago for their activities.
It is, however, the Magic Forest's age-appropriate playground that has created the most interest among the parents of the young children. Security for the playground takes many forms.
The entire facility is enclosed with "a see-thru" fence and it has only a single gated entrance-exit access. The ground under the play structures is in compliance with ADA and other safety standards. The comfortable benches for the parents and caretakers are also situated inside the fenced area close to but not intruding on the individual playground components.
Each area is separated by signage into age-appropriate groupings. Significant thought has gone into the selection of the playground equipment. Foremost among these has been the need to painlessly educate, while at the same time, not interfering with safe physical activities. The time-setting clock, the musical chimes that ring out "Somewhere over the Rainbow" and the spelling blocks all receive heavy use. Nearby safe, enclosed buildings with basketball courts provide shelter from unexpected storms rolling in from the west.
Thor Guard uses a highly sophisticated sensor and computer to measure and analyze the electrostatic field in the atmosphere. Lightning originates within this field, thus allowing the unit to make calculations predicting its occurrence, even though there may be no visible evidence of lightning. Lightning "detection" as opposed to "prediction" systems, requires the occurrence of an actual lightning strike before a warning is given. Many times this is just too late.
Thor Guard effectively reads the activity within the electrostatic field through a proprietary program developed after hundreds of hours of thunderstorm monitoring and will predict the probability of a lightning strike within a predetermined area of concern. This program can also project the potential for deadly bolts out of the blue, which are strikes that seem to come from nowhere and cause a high percentage of lightning fatalities.
It also predicts the probability of a lightning hazard in an area up to 25 square miles. More importantly, it also provides a specific reading of the risk in your immediate area. Couple the prediction capability of a Thor Guard with the Voice of THOR, an interactive horn warning system, and you have a true automatic advance warning package.
As it tracks the storm it also keeps track of its location. When the storm gets within two miles it automatically activates the warning devices which include the loud piercing alert horn and a flashing red strobe light.
Patents on the basic technologies employed in the system are based on developments produced originally from 1968 to 1985 by Electrofields, Inc., the forerunner in the field of lighting prediction.
For the City of Ormond Beach and its Nova Community Park and Magic Playground, the often unpredictable weather and lightning strikes, while always a major safety concern, are now somewhat less so.
The recognition here goes jointly to Daves Abee of the Leisure Services Division and concerned and committed city commissioners.