Following the tragic death of a lifeguard in South Seaside Park last summer after being struck by lightning, several local communities began installing lightning detection arrays that measure electrical activity in the sky and send out an audible siren. Lavallette is now looking to tap into what may become a network of linked sites up and down the barrier island.
The suggestion for lightning detection equipment came after a review of island towns’ lifeguarding safety policies by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency tasked with assuring safe working conditions. Like most towns, Lavallette’s guard staff had access to a wireless app that sent out an alert whenever weather radar detected lightning within a certain number of miles, but the OSHA staff suggested a measure that did not depend on the internet, or a third-party radar, to determine whether lightning was a threat. Lavallette is surrounded by Toms River, which has two arrays installed in Ortley Beach. Another has been installed in Brick Township at Brick Beach I, north of Normandy Beach.
“They inspected because of the deaths of the two lifeguards last year, and they’re coming up with suggestions to make things safer for employees,” said Mayor Walter LaCicero.
Lavallette’s idea, since it is completely surrounded by Toms River, would be to “plug in” to the neighboring town’s system, said Councilman Michael Stogdill. Toms River is considering expanding its network of detection antennas to its North Beach neighborhoods, which would place Lavallette directly in the middle of the Ortley Beach and North Beach sites. The location could be ideal, since Lavallette could purchase the software and sirens while importing data from the neighboring arrays. Ideally, because they are made by the same manufacturer, the Brick system could also be added to the network, and other island towns that are considering purchasing detectors might be interested as well.
“They can put another relay in their northern beaches, and then there is another system in Brick,” said Stogdill, who said he recently spoke with Toms River Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill, and was put in touch with a representative from the manufacturer. That person confirmed the systems can interconnect between towns.
LaCicero said the OSHA inspectors had another suggestion for the borough’s lifeguards – appointing a designated person to serve as a “weather watcher,” which has already been completed. Stogdill said safety is assured by the presence of EMT crews assigned to the beach as well.
“We have two EMTs who work on the beach, and they follow the medical guidelines that are put out there,” he said.