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Lightning kills more than 2,000 people per year worldwide. Most of these deaths occur in places without sufficient severe weather alert systems.

In the United States alone, 446,726,668 million lightning pulses were detected in 2021 — only 8% of those hit the ground. The majority of lightning activity occurs up in the clouds where you may not be able to see or hear it until you are already in danger. This makes it incredibly difficult to reliably protect yourself, your employees, and your visitors from severe weather without the help of some monitoring and alerting system.

Do you have a sufficient severe weather & lightning alert system in place? 

This Lightning Alerting Systems Buying Guide will clearly illustrate the difference between alerting technology available on the market today and help you decide what system you need.

Find out why a lightning detection system is the right decision for recreation, schools, parks and other outdoor facilities and learn:

  • The dangers of lightning and severe weather
  • The must-have features for outdoor automated severe weather alerting systems
  • The difference between lightning detection and lightning prediction technologies

Find out how to effectively protect yourself, your employees, and your visitors from lightning using the latest monitoring and alerting technology.

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction to Lightning Alerting Systems

  • Technological Differences

    • Lightning Alert Technology: Prediction vs. Detection

    • Lightning Detection Reliability: Single-Node vs. Network-Based Coverage

  • Key Features of Lightning Alerting Systems

    • Storm-Tracking Visualization

    • Real-Time Alert Delivery

    • All-Clear Countdown Clock

  • Lightning Alerting Systems Summary


Introduction to Lightning Alerting Systems

Inclement weather can derail operations at any outdoor venue in the blink of an eye. Although preparation can mitigate safety risks from thunderstorms, blizzards, or heatwaves, weather patterns evolve by the second. That means from the moment a forecast is broadcast, it becomes old news. And with an average of about 100,000 thunderstorms a year in the U.S. alone, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that’s simply too much uncertainty to ignore – especially when your patrons are at the mercy of the elements.

Parks, sports complexes, schools, and local governments need better strategies for detecting weather phenomena and monitoring it in real time. All must make intelligent decisions efficiently, then quickly disseminate information to staff and visitors in a manner that protects both people from harm and equipment from damage. The problem is, there are solutions available on the market today that claim to help you reach those goals, but they don’t all perform as advertised.

Why is that? Well, there are two major areas that differ from system to system:

  1. Data used to power the solution
  2. Method of data delivery used by the solution

In this buying guide, we’ll explore some of the most important aspects of a strong lightning alerting system. Specifically, we’ll compare technology differences like:

  • Lightning prediction vs. Lightning detection
  • Single-node lightning detection vs. Network detection

We also compare other key features that set superior systems apart from the others, like:

  • Storm-tracking visualization
  • Real-time alert delivery
  • All-clear countdown clocks

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Technological Differences

When it comes to the science of meteorology, data is key. A lot of people don’t realize that free weather apps are free for a reason: the quality of data simply isn’t the same as it is in comprehensive weather intelligence solutions. This section of the buying guide dissects the differences between two key technology features of the leading outdoor systems in the marketplace today.

Lightning Alert Technology: PREDICTION VS. DETECTION

For example, lightning data is a critical piece of data that most outdoor alerting systems use to send out alerts. While most companies only monitor cloud-to-ground lightning, total lightning (which includes in-cloud lightning) acts as a more accurate and comprehensive source of weather alerts. Since lightning data is so important, let’s take a look at the key differences in lightning safety solutions like horns and strobes available today. First, let’s look at the differences between prediction technology and detection technology.


✖️ Electrostatic lightning prediction systems predict the possibility of a lightning storm based on atmospheric conditions.

✖️ Prediction technology identifies electrostatic discharges only but can’t discern the direction they came from nor their range with any certainty.

✖️ Limited measurements with more reliance on prediction can trigger false alarms. To prevent false alarms, equipment manufacturers or owners often set alert thresholds high which results in a greater potential for unreported storms.


✔️Industry-leading lightning detection systems track the motion of active thunderstorms and measure lightning-specific discharges in real time, lowering false alarm rates.

✔️ The best lightning detection technology can pinpoint the exact locations of storms across the country and help users analyze the threat potential to their immediate neighborhoods and other operating areas.

✔️ Detection systems that can distinguish between cloud-to-ground and in-cloud lightning offer accurate lead times to provide ample planning to get people to safety.


Lightning Detection Reliability: SINGLE-NODE VS. NETWORK COVERAGE

Not only does the quality of your weather tracking and alerting system matter, but the reliability of the data matters as well. Systems backed by robust data networks provide a more complete picture of weather conditions, fast-moving storms, and potential hazards.

Let’s discuss the key differences between single-node detection and network detection technology:


✖️When single-node detection equipment is the sole weather monitoring asset on site, there is no redundancy available if that single sensor goes offline. No redundancy means no detection.

✖️Leading single-node detection equipment has a detection radius of only about 20 miles.

✖️Range accuracy of single-node systems is generally poor and can degrade even further if the sensor is not properly maintained.


✔️Network-based detection relies on a network of lightning sensors, so if the sensor at your particular location was offline for some reason, lightning detection service would still be fully operational.

✔️Networked weather and lightning detection is not limited to the local vicinity. Depending on the coverage of the network, it can span counties, states and even countries.

✔️Due to the high coverage of connected networks, the range accuracy of network based detection is much higher.

Up Next: Key Features of a Lightning Alerting System

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