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golfmanager magazine 4/2021 - In conversation with Philipp Kominek, COPTR

Automatic thunderstorm warning systems on golf courses

Fires, storms with hurricane-like gales, heavy rain, violent thunderstorms: climate change is becoming more and more noticeable, the frequency of accidents is increasing noticeably. At the same time, the events occur more and more unexpectedly and without much lead time - an aspect that should not be underestimated, especially in golf with its extensive playing areas. Weather shelters and continuous education of members and guests are just as important as dealing with suitable technology for automatic warning systems. In an interview with golfmanager, Philipp Kominek, Managing Director of Coptr Bevölkerungs-Kommunikationssysteme GmbH, explains the advantages and mode of operation of Coptr warning systems.

Mr Kominek, is the impression correct that climate change is causing more and more thunderstorms?

First of all, dangerous storms have always existed and the total number of lightning strikes per year has not increased dramatically. But thunderstorms have suddenly become more numerous, more small-scale and therefore even more difficult to predict. Another striking feature is that the speed at which thunderstorms move tends to be slower, which means that the consequential damage caused, for example, by heavy rainfall in the affected areas, as experienced so painfully in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate in July, can be significantly greater.

How is operational safety increased with the help of automatic warning systems?

The warning system alerts club staff and golfers to life-threatening hazards such as lightning or storms. It works continuously, even when the secretary's office is unmanned, according to the latest state of the art and within the framework of the recognised rules of technology. The secretariat can concentrate on its core tasks and does not have to keep an eye on the weather situation at the same time. It ensures safety and routine through always consistent, regulated processes, through fully automatic function and individual system configuration, instead of subjective decisions by the staff. The human factor is involved in measuring, pre-warning, alerting and all-clearing against the danger of lightning. All lightning and storm measurement data, the system functions and the instructions for action are documented to the second as proof of the events.

How does the thunderstorm warning system work in practice?

The Coptr thunderstorm warning system according to DIN EN IEC 62793 Lightning Protection Thunderstorm Warning Systems works fully automatically and receives data of actually measured lightning in the vicinity of the golf course in real time, accurate to within a few metres. It therefore warns only on the basis of factual measured data in the event of an existing danger. The lightning data source is a Europe-wide lightning detection system from Siemens. Based on scientific recommendations, two monitoring areas are defined in advance for the golf course, which can be varied in shape and size at any time. An outer area as a pre-warning area and an inner area as an alarm area. If lightning is measured at an extended distance in the prewarning area, an automatic prewarning is given via a colour display (yellow) on the smartphone. If lightning is measured at a distance relevant to the safety of the players (alarm area), an automatic siren signal is given in accordance with the golf rules to interrupt play: All persons on the course should immediately seek out lightning-protected shelters, the clubhouse or cars. The club management and the players can read the current thunderstorm status (red) and textual instructions for action via the Internet on their smartphones and track how long it will take until play is released again using a 20-minute countdown. The countdown jumps back up to 20 minutes if further lightning is measured in the alarm area. After the 20-minute safety buffer has elapsed, the game is also automatically released. The countdown jumps back up to 20 minutes if further flashes are measured in the alarm area. After the 20-minute safety buffer has elapsed, the game is also automatically released (green) by means of a rule-compliant siren signal. The warning system switches off automatically at the freely selectable night-time rest period and switches on again in the morning. If a small weather station is also installed, warnings and warnings of storms can be issued fully automatically in addition to lightning strikes.

In what other areas is the system still used?

In addition to thunderstorm warning, the systems can also be controlled by the local fire brigade on golf courses and other fields of application and used as population communication systems for disaster alarms. Other fields of application are, for example, public sports facilities, football stadiums, amusement parks, open-air swimming pools, regatta courses, horse racing tracks, event venues, industrial sites, etc.

Can you give us any additional information on the subject of liability?

Unfortunately, we still hear from boards of directors and operators about the legal error of the "personal responsibility of golfers in case of lightning danger" according to golf rules (6.8 old, 5.7a new) as a carte blanche to shift the operator's liability and road safety obligation to the golfers.

However, golf rules, even as contractually agreed conditions for the use of a golf course, do not have the quality to release the operator of a golf course from his independently existing and non-excludable road safety obligations. According to case law, the operator of a sports facility has the duty to prevent the implementation of dangers associated with the intended use of the sports facility (BGH in VersR 1980, p. 67). The extent of the duty to ensure safety depends on the respective state of the art, because what is required is what is technically possible and reasonable in each case. Today, the state of the art makes it possible to assess weather risks without any problems, taking into account the available information, and to communicate them to persons on one's own site. Closing one's eyes and shifting the responsibility to the players on one's own facility has never been possible, but it is no longer possible today considering the state of the art. This can also be seen in the currently discussed criminal responsibility of district councillors in the flood areas of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. We no longer live in a time when weather risks cannot be dismissed as a risk. On one's own course, the operator is liable for this, who also draws the economic benefits, for example, from the green fee.

Particularly high obligations apply to children due to their inexperience and imprudence. There are further norms that oblige to warn and accompany the risks of weather hazards for the protection of the users of sports facilities, but also of employees (greenkeeping, marshal, secretary), e.g. § 23 regulation 1 of the regulations of the accident insurances (DGUV) and §§ 3, 4 of the labour protection law. Therefore, the still frequent practice of sending employees out of the safe clubhouse during thunderstorms to "collect" the golfers one by one with the cart and to inform them about the interruption of play is not justifiable. That job is better left to automated warning systems.


Dear Mr Kominek, thank you for the comprehensive information that will make the game safer in the future under the increasingly difficult weather conditions.

4/2021 golfmanager magazine |

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