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Fall 2019  Volume 15, Number 3        


How to Protect against Lightning

Lightning is the most dangerous and frequently-encountered weather hazard that most people experience each year.

In 2018 there were 20 direct lightning fatalities and approximately $909 million in lightning insurance claims to 78,000 policyholders, according to the Insurance Information Institute. But the payouts from insurance, according to Underwriters Laboratories, are the tip of the iceberg. U.L. says lightning accounts for more than "one billion dollars annually in structural damage to buildings in the U.S." — not including "costs due to loss of business, downtime and repairs."

Systems of Protection

According to the lightning Protection Institute, more and more homeowners are becoming aware of the need to protect their homes from a lightning strike. Lightning protection systems keep homeowners and their property safe from lightning by shielding the home and providing a direct path to ground for the lightning current to flow through when there's a lightning strike. It also prevents damage to the home as the current flows through the system.

A lightning protection system is designed to control or force electrical discharge onto a specified path, thereby eliminating the chance of fire or explosion within non-conductive parts of the house such as those made of wood, brick, tile, etc. A lightning protection system is not intended to prevent a strike. Its purpose is to provide a safe path on which the current can be directed to the ground. Unprotected homes risk the possibility of damage by fire, explosions or electrical surges and pose a safety risk to occupants. The effects of a lightning strike can be both physically and emotionally devastating.

Protecting Your Home

Protecting your home is a matter of contacting a professional who is qualified to design and install a certified lightning protection system. According to the Lightning Prevention Institute, a complete lightning protection system is typically made up of the following components:

  • Air Terminals — Also referred to as lightning rods, these inconspicuous copper or aluminum rods are vertically mounted on the roof at regular intervals as defined by industry safety standards. The air terminals serve as strike receptors, designed to intercept the lightning strike.
  • Main Conductors — Constructed of aluminum or copper, these braided cables connect the air terminals to the other system components and the grounds.
  • Grounds — A minimum of two ground rods, driven at least 10 feet deep in the earth are required for all structures. The ground terminations direct the dangerous current into the ground, to eliminate the chance of injury or damage to the structure. Special grounding requirements are sometimes necessary in shallow, sandy or rocky soil, which are addressed in the industry safety standards for installation.
  • Bonds — Bonding joins metallic bodies (roof components) and grounded building systems to the main conductor to ensure conductivity and prevent side flashing (lightning jumping between two objects).
  • Surge Arresters and Suppressors — A surge is an increase in electrical current due to a lightning strike on or near a power line or utility service. Surge suppression is installed at the electrical panel(s) to prevent the entrance of overvoltages which can cause a fire. Arresters installed at electrical panels help protect heavy appliances and prevent fires at the service panel entrances. Additional devices may be needed to protect other in-house electronics. Surge protection devices are typically installed in conjunction with a lightning protection system.
  • Tree Protection — LPI recommends that any tree taller than a home or within 10 feet of the structure be equipped with a lightning protection system. Trees do not offer protection and many homeowners choose to have trees protected for their own value. An unprotected tree in close proximity to a structure can also create a side-flash hazard to the nearby home.

For information about how to protect your home against lightning, please contact us.

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In this issue:

This Just In...

Good News, Bad News about Car Theft

Why You Always Need an Umbrella — Even When It Isn't Raining

How to Protect against Lightning

Are You Prepared for an Emergency?



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