Colorado State University ThorGuard Lightning Prediction System Procedures
At Colorado State University, the University Safety Committee and Environmental Health Services partnered with five departments (Athletics, Campus Recreation, Conference Services, Facilities Management, and Health and Exercise Science) to purchase the Thor Guard Lightning Prediction and Warning System for a majority of Main Campus (Intramural Fields, Jack Christensen Track, the Ropes Challenge Course and University Tennis Courts) as well as Hughes Stadium.
While the system is not infallible, and common sense should still be followed, the system will be an important tool for enhancing safety of University sanctioned activities involving students, employees and visitors. All of the partners are confident that this system (if its warnings are responsibly heeded) will substantially reduce the chances of a lightning related tragedy occurring at these sites.
The ThorGuard system installed consists of a “Base Station” (Sensor) and Transmitter located at the Student Recreation Center with 3 remote horn assemblies (Jack Christensen Track the Ropes Challenge Course and the University Tennis Courts). The sensor constantly monitors atmospheric conditions within a 2-mile radius of the sensor that can cause lightning and sends a signal to the horn assemblies when a danger threshold is passed. The horn assemblies then sound a “red alert” alarm (a strobe light on the assembly begins intermittently flashing, and one - 15 second long blast from the horns is sounded in all directions that can be heard approximately 700 yards away) to warn people at the sites to seek appropriate shelter for the duration of the red alert period. All outdoor activities must cease during red alert periods to protect all users of these sites. Appropriate shelter includes surrounding buildings, automobiles/trucks, and when one of those is not available - dense woods or low-lying areas. However, if the conditions appear unsafe and a red alert alarm has not sounded common sense should be your guide and activities should still cease despite the absence of a ThorGuard warning.
When the ThorGuard sensor detects that the danger has passed (a minimum of 10 minutes after the original alarm) it will send the all-clear signal to the horn assemblies (the strobe light will stop flashing at all and three separate - 5 second long blasts from the horns will sound). After the all-clear signal is sounded it is safe, according to the ThorGuard system, to resume outdoor activities. However common sense should still govern, and if the conditions do not appear to be safe to resume activity it is best to wait until the weather circumstances change regardless of an all clear from ThorGuard.
Due to the unpredictability of weather patterns it may be possible for the “red alert” to sound multiple times within an hour, or even sound when there appears to be no danger (i.e. clear skies). While stopping and restarting athletic activities due to ThorGuard warnings may result in some frustration, and even anger, it is important to remember that the ThorGuard system’s warnings must be heeded at all times. The potential risk to people is too great to ignore and the consequences of an accident too severe. It is worth noting that many of the lightning deaths and injuries that occur each year are from the first lightning strike from an incoming storm or come from the rear of a storm that appears to have passed through an area. The chance of these types of tragedies can be minimized by using the Thor Guard system, which relies on readings of atmospheric conditions not visible to the human eye.
ThorGuard informational signs have been placed near the location of each notification unit (Student Recreation Center, Jack Christensen Track , Ropes Challenge Course and University Tennis Courts). The signs are similar to the picture below. Individuals in the Command Post will monitor the system at Hughes Stadium and patrons will be alerted to any lightning hazard via the Public Address System. Due to the extended hours these sites are in use the system will be operational during the following hours:
- Sunday-Friday 6:00AM – 11:00 PM
- Saturday 6:00AM – 6:00 PM
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the Thor Guard system please email at Ken.Quintana@ColoState.Edu or call (970) 491-6121. ** Please note that the Thor Guard system’s horns and strobe lights will be tested the first Tuesday of every month at about 9:00 AM