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When The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa renovated its pool in 2006, a lightning prediction and warning system was installed to enhance weather safety procedures. The system measures atmospheric changes and sounds a warning siren whenever there is a 33 percent or higher probability of lightning within a set radius around the property. It is very accurate and makes it clear to the staff when to close pool areas as foul weather approaches.

The system has become widely used in the Houston area now, but in 2006, the only people who encountered it were golfers. For The Houstonian members and guests, the education process has taken time. Initially, people wanted the system removed because they did not understand the benefits and they disliked the loud siren.

The also didn?t like what it meant. The Houstonian expects patrons to not only clear the pool, but requests that they move to safety inside the building or under the snack bar shelter. Many patrons thought that ?taking cover? meant squeezing up under a patio umbrella. It took time to get them to understand that sitting under an umbrella was not safe because an umbrella can attract lightning.

The education process had to start with nearly all of The Houstonian?s employees, not just the pool staff. Anyone who might encounter a guest needed to understand the purpose of the system and how it worked. Even front-line workers such as front-desk employees, pool porters and pool attendants received education on the system.

The Houstonian?s aquatics staff is trained to look at several weather sites on the Internet. One good Web site with extra information is www.wunderground.com. We look there first because wunderground can show lightning strikes in an area, and it projects where a weather system will travel in an hour. We have our monitors turned so patrons can see the screen and we talk to them about what we can see.

Often, patrons who started out upset the pool had to close, see the computer monitor and write down the link to the Web site so they can find it on their home computer. On days when the weather is questionable, patrons will check out the site from home so they can plan what time they want to head to our pools to avoid pool closures due to weather.

While most patrons learned to trust the system, we had one holdout who constantly argued with us. But Mother Nature herself gave him a wake-up call he won?t soon forget.

It happened on a day when the system sounded along with visible lightning and audible thunder. Our stubborn patron wanted to keep swimming because he felt his knowledge of electricity was better than the lightning predictor. He argued that the pool was down lower than the trees, so it was not likely that lightning would strike the pool or pipes. We finally called security. Then, just as they arrived, lightning struck so close that static electricity made one?s hair stand up for a second.

Needless to say, that patron is now fully cooperative to the point of asking to see what the weather Web sites are showing. He has even questioned why the system is reading ?All Clear? if he hears thunder way off in the distance.