Manatee County installs lightning protection system on lifeguard towers

They’re hard to notice at first glance. But the circular objects at the very top of Manatee County's lifeguard stands could be called lifesavers. 

"We did something that wasn't on a beach anywhere else in the state of Florida," proclaimed Chief Joe Westerman. 

The device is called a lightning suppressor and is made by a company called EMP Defense. 

There are now 11 of them installed in lifeguard stands stretching from Coquina Beach to the Manatee Public Beach. 

"It does not allow lighting to strike within a perimeter based off the size of the component that is used. That design stops the activity of cloud-to-ground ions from charging and making a lightning strike," said Chief Westerman. 

Westerman said the lightning suppressor is a good match for Florida. 

"I grew up my whole life around lighting and grew up in the state of Florida where when you heard that thunder and see that lighting you know it’s deadly. To be able to think about that protection, it’s hard to grasp. Lightning might strike around them but the tower itself is safe from a lighting strike," he said. 

Based on its size, the device can protect anywhere from 82 feet to 390 feet around the tower -- which could provide a safety net under the tower to beach visitors and anyone who gets caught in a storm. 

"To have a system that not only protects first responders but the possibility of other people…it’s a good feeling," said Chief Westerman.