Ascension Public Schools has taken action to protect students from dangerous weather by installing seven lightning-detection units at its high school practice and game facilities, and equipping key middle and high school staff members with a sophisticated weather app.
According to the National Lightning Detection Network, Louisiana and Florida have the highest density of lightning strikes in the United States. Louisiana had 1.1 million flashes in 2017, and Ascension Parish ranges between 20 to 28 flashes per square mile each year.
The project was led by maintenance supervisor Jeff Parent, according to Ascension Public Schools Superintendent David Alexander.
The Perry Weather Outdoor Warning system is powered by both cellular data and solar energy to detect lightning within a 30-mile radius, eliminating the possibility of losing power or signal during a storm, according to a news release. The units are equipped with both siren and strobe notifications when lightning is detected.
Outdoor warning systems are installed at the following locations:
- Donaldsonville High School campus athletic fields
- Donaldsonville High School game facility, Boutte Stadium
- Dutchtown High School campus athletic fields and stadium
- East Ascension High School campus athletic fields
- East Ascension High School game facility, Spartan Stadium
- St. Amant High School campus athletic fields
- St. Amant High School stadium, The Pit.
The Perry Weather System will give one 15-second notification blast when lightning strikes within 8 miles. Upon hearing the blast, individuals should immediately stop current activities and seek shelter. After the initial blast, a yellow strobe light on top of the system will flash until safe conditions return. After the area is clear for 30 minutes from the last strike, the system will provide an "all clear" by giving three five-second blasts. Regular activities may resume at that time.
Ascension's contract with Perry Weather additionally provides the Pocket Perry Platform, a cloud-based real-time weather and lightning notification tool that syncs to the outdoor warning system to provide school and district staff with real-time updates, alerts, and remote manual triggering, if needed. Although the middle schools are not equipped with the outdoor warning system, all athletic directors, coaches and principals have the Pocket Perry Platform that will alert them to any threats, which will be communicated using the school's public announcement system.