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NWS Cleveland recognizes Bowling Green State University for the implementation of their lightning safety plan


Bowling Green State University (BGSU, Wood County, OH) became the first university in the state of Ohio and the first in the college Mid-American Conference to be recognized by the National Weather Service for their proactive efforts to reduce the risks associated with lightning for the students, staff, and visitors to their outdoor stadiums and fields through a comprehensive lightning safety plan.

Matthew Keefe, BGSU Emergency Manager Coordinator said that “BGSU Emergency Management used ‘A Whole Community Approach’ to leverage resources and coordinate efforts,…” working with the National Weather Service, County Emergency Management, state partners and several university departments.  They ensured their lightning preparedness plan abided by recommended safety actions and that a chain of command was identified with everyone knowing the role they were to play in keeping outdoor activities safe from thunderstorm threats.  Mr. Keefe noted that “The Bowling Green State University (BGSU) Lightning Safety Plan has improved the readiness of the University by providing event decision-makers with guidance and tools needed to protect students, faculty, staff and guests from lightning hazards before, during and after outdoor events on Campus.”recognizing BGSU lightning safety plan

Mr. Keefe utilized the National Weather Service’s lightning safety toolkits to aid in designing the plan and was in contact with the National Weather Service for guidance in creating the university’s plan.   Their lightning safety plan is integrated into their Football Emergency Operations Center and all of their other outdoor venue operation plans.   They have acquired multiple sources for current weather and forecasts, subscribed to receive lightning alerts, established lightning radii triggers for action, and identified safe structures as designated shelters.  The plan identifies alternate safe structures to accommodate over flow as well.  They are able to display weather information and evacuation instructions on their video scoreboard and play pre-planned announcements over the public address system.  Weather is fully integrated into their operations from the planning stages before an event through the resumption of the outdoor activity after the lightning threat passes.

After working with Mr. Keefe, Bradley Gilbert, Director of the Wood County Emergency Management Agency said that “…the BGSU Lightning Safety Plan will be used by Wood County to enhance the safety of other large outdoor events in the county like the Wood County Fair and the National Tractor Pulling Championship.”

Bowling Green State University is only the 15th venue or organization to be recognized by the NWS for their lightning safety plan.  The lightning toolkits and the plans venues put in place are a compliment to the NWS StormReady program.  The winter months are a great time for venues to develop a plan to protect from lightning and the NWS is here with support through guidance and toolkits.  The NWS has toolkits to address venues big and small. Go to the NWS Lightning Safety web site for more information on the lightning safety toolkits that the NWS has to offer.

Pictured from left to right:  Chris Kingston (BGSU Athletic Director), Bradley Gilbert (Wood Co. EMA), Matthew Keefe (BGSU Emergency Management Coordinator, Mary Ellen Mazey (BGSU President), Karen Oudeman (WFO CLE Meteorologist), Gary Garnet (WFO CLE Warning Coordination Meteorologist)