Customer Stories > Prince William County Public Schools

How a 97-School District in Virginia Takes a Unified Approach to Weather Safety Decisions

  • Dr. Martin Grimm
    Director of Student Activities Management

  • Ashley Ausborn
    Coordinator of Sports Medicine

“Perry Weather takes all of the guesswork out of our weather safety decisions. It’s the best of all worlds, our entire division is able to quickly understand what we’re dealing with without the stress—it’s so clear and obvious what to do which creates a safer environment for our student athletes.”
Dr. Martin Grimm
Director of Student Activities Management

Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) is located in Northern Virginia and is the 2nd largest school division in Virginia, and the 34th largest in the country with over 100,000 students across all of its schools that covers a very wide and diverse geographic area. PWCS athletics and student activities are governed by the Virginia High School League, (VHSL), which establishes rules and regulations for all public-school athletic programs in the state of Virginia, including safety regulations for practicing safely outdoors.

Dr. Martin Grimm, the Student Activities Director at Prince William County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, faced a challenge as soon as he took on his new role at the district: making weather-related decisions about sports practices and games. Northern Virginia experiences frequent lightning, but the region’s varying elevations, hills, and rivers make it difficult to accurately determine the proximity of lightning strikes.

He recognized the necessity for a comprehensive system that could not only identify potential weather hazards, such as lightning and extreme heat, which might affect athletic events but also automatically alert coaches and staff with appropriate safety measures. By implementing a unified and automated platform, the district aimed to establish a fair and consistent approach to managing severe weather situations and ensuring the well-being of all student athletes, parents, and staff.

Dealing With Inconsistency in Lightning Safety Protocols 

Before implementing Perry Weather, athletic trainers and coaches at different schools in Prince William County Public Schools relied on various apps on their phones to track lightning. This led to disagreements and inconsistent ways of managing lightning safety when it came to canceling or delaying practices and games. Moreover, there was no way to know how much longer they had to wait after delaying activities due to lightning. The district sought a system that would allow athletic trainers and coaches to make accurate and consistent decisions independently.

Implementing Perry Weather for Consistent Decision-Making

After adopting Perry Weather, all athletic trainers and coaches in Prince William County Public Schools now use the same lightning detection and warning system, ensuring consistent decisions across the entire district.

Dr. Grimm shared an example of a game where the sky was illuminated by lightning, but it was challenging to determine the lightning’s distance with the naked eye. Without Perry Weather, they might have had to empty the entire stadium. However, with Perry Weather, they were confident that the lightning was not within the 10-mile radius, allowing them to continue playing.

Automating Lightning Alerts and Notifications

When lightning strikes within 10 miles, Perry Weather automatically sounds sirens across the stadium or field, warning players, coaches, and fans of the nearby lightning. Coaches, trainers, and anyone on the platform also receive instant notifications on their phones when lightning is detected within the 10-mile policy range, along with clear instructions on what to do next.

Here is an example of the Perry Weather warning system siren sound:

After a strike is detected, a 30-minute countdown timer begins, resetting to 30 minutes if more strikes are detected. Once the timer reaches 0, an all-clear message sounds over the sirens, and mobile notifications are sent to trainers and coaching staff, indicating that it is safe to resume activities. This automated system eliminates the need for sending multiple text messages or communicating via radio, reducing stress on athletic trainers during lightning delays and ensuring protocols are followed properly.

Navigating VHSL Heat Stress Policies Without the Headache

Prince William County Public Schools is part of the Virginia High School League (VHSL), which has guidelines for managing heat stress during outdoor activities using Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT). Athletic trainers must measure WBGT and monitor readings to ensure practices are conducted safely. Ranges determine the need for shortened practices, additional water breaks, or, in some cases, the cancellation of outdoor practices.

Previously, Ashley Ausborn, the Coordinator of Sports Medicine for the district and a former athletic trainer, and other athletic trainers in PWCS used handheld WBGT devices to take readings. They then manually compared the readings to a chart provided by VHSL and informed coaches about necessary practice alterations. This process was cumbersome, inefficient, and challenging to manage.

Automated WBGT Readings and Notifications With Perry Weather

WBGT readings are automatically taken from weather stations located on campus every 15 minutes and logged. The platform has integrated VHSL heat stress guidelines, so whenever WBGT readings cross into a zone requiring practice alterations, notifications are automatically sent to all trainers and staff. These notifications include the reading and the necessary alterations based on VHSL heat stress activity guidelines, eliminating the manual and cumbersome process used in the past.

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