If you hear a siren go off in a Broward County Park, you should take notice - it’s most likely a warning that a lightning storm is approaching.
Currently there are 19 Broward County parks and nature centers that use the Thorguard electronic lightning prediction system, consisting of a central sensor unit on a main building and one or more relay horns to provide coverage of an entire area. In addition to the air horns, a yellow strobe light continues to flash after the horns have sounded and stays on until three short horn blasts provide an all-clear signal.
In the event of a warning (one long 15-second blast), you have between eight and 15 minutes to take shelter, depending on the speed of the storm. Shelter is usually inside a building, under a roof, or inside a car. All County-sponsored programs will be put on hold until the all-clear sounds and it is safe to go out. Most fatalities occur after a storm has passed, when people think it is safe to go out because the wind and rain have cleared, but the storm discharges one last parting bolt to an area of ground that remains charged.
Be safe, not sorry, and get your family and friends to take shelter when a lightning storm approaches, and stay out of the weather until the all-clear signals sound.
Broward County Lightning Guidelines
Lightning kills more people in Florida than all other weather hazards combined.
Outdoor activities will be suspended when the horns sound (a 15–second warning blast) or any sign of imminent lightning is observed. Once the audible alarm has sounded and strobes are flashing, shelter should be taken, either in a large building or a vehicle (not a convertible). Outdoor activity may be resumed only after three five-second horn blasts have sounded, indicating that the storm has moved out of the area, and the strobe warning lights are off.
For facilities without an electronic prediction system or during periods when the warning horns are off, the standard 30-second/30-minute rule is in effect, as follows: if the time between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder is less than 30 seconds, take shelter. After a storm, 30 minutes must elapse before outdoor activities can be resumed. Each observation of either lightning or thunder initiates another 30-minute waiting period. If you disregard the 30/30 rule or remain outdoors after a warning alarm is issued, you do so at your own risk.
Park personnel will try to advise patrons of adverse weather, as long as they do not endanger their own safety. The park manager or on-site supervisor will have the final decision concerning reopening activity centers, rescheduling, and, if applicable, honoring refund requests.
Avoid being in or near high places and open fields, isolated trees, baseball dugouts, communications towers, flagpoles, light poles, bleachers (metal or wood), metal fences, convertibles, or golf carts. If you are in a vehicle or truck with a solid roof, keep hands and feet away from the metal frame. When inside a building, avoid use of conductive surfaces with exposure to the outside such as metal door or window frames, electrical, telephone, and cable TV wiring, plumbing, etc. Use of telephone lines should be restricted to emergency communications.
Anglers and boaters should exit lakes or canals and seek shelter when storms approach. Once on land, move at least 100 yards away from shore or any body of water and seek safe shelter. If safe shelter is not available and you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Crouch on the ground with your arms wrapped around your knees and only the balls of your feet touching the ground. Make yourself the smallest target possible. Do not lie flat on the ground.
If you have any other questions, feel free to contact the Parks Safety Section at ParksSafety@Broward.org.