Lightning safety guide
Spring and summer storms often include the threat of lightning. According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, one in 200 homes is hit by lightning each year.1 Fortunately, there are precautions you can take for your home and your family to help you be prepared if lightning strikes.
Q: Does lightning protection for my home really work?
According to Underwriters Laboratories (U.L.), lightning accounts for more than one billion dollars annually in structural damage to buildings in the US.2
Today’s lightning protection systems provide practical and tested solutions for the interconnection of grounded building systems, surge suppression, requirements for communication and data lines and their coordinated bonding. Lightning protection is an affordable amenity that offers protection against a leading cause of property damage.
Q: How can I protect my home from lightning?
If you live in an area prone to lightning strikes, we recommend putting your entire home on a surge-protection system, especially if it is equipped with home automation technology. Employ a licensed electrician to install a lightning protection system on your home. The ideal lightning protection system includes lightning rods, a surge arrestor and circuit breakers.
In addition to whole-building surge protection, we strongly recommend the following:
- Unplug electronic equipment. It is the most reliable means of protecting that equipment from a power surge.
- Do not use landline telephones or computers unless it is an emergency. Utility lines and pipes can carry an electric current underground and through buildings.
- Know the important difference between a surge suppressor and a power strip. A power strip plugs into your wall outlet and allows you to plug in multiple electronic devices. However, a power strip DOES NOT protect equipment from being damaged by a power spike. A surge suppressor gives the user the ability to plug in multiple electronic devices, and it also protects your electronic devices from a power spike.
- Connect telephone, cable/satellite TV and network lines to a surge suppressor.
- Make sure the surge suppressor has an indicator light so you know it is working properly and has been tested to UL 1449.
- Purchase a surge suppressor with a Joule rating of over 1,000. The Joule rating typically ranges from 200 up to several thousand. The higher the number the better.
- Look for a surge suppressor with a clamping voltage rating (voltage at which the protector will conduct the electricity to ground) between 330v, which is typical, to 400v.
- DO NOT cut corners. You don’t want to protect a $3,000 television or computer system with a $10 surge protector. For $25 and up you can provide much better protection.
The Insurance Information Institute offers general guidelines on choosing an appropriate system at www.iii.org/video/how-pick-lightning-protection-system.
Q: How much does a lightning protection system cost?
The range for a typical system is between $431 and $2,552. The average system tends to cost around $1,500.3
Q: Can I install my own lightning protection?
Lightning protection is not a do-it-yourself project. Only experienced and reputable UL-listed and Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) certified lightning protection contractors should install lightning protection systems. LPI certified installers must successfully pass the industry’s most comprehensive testing requirements to receive certification and they must stay on top of changes in safety standards and scientific findings in the industry.
Q: Will my insurance company provide a discount for my home lightning protection?
Insurance companies in most states offer premium credits for security systems, fire alarms, residential sprinkler systems, permanently installed back-up generators and other protective measures for the entire perimeter of the home. Lightning protection systems are generally recognized as “protection for the entire external perimeter,” and a such, are often considered for credits. Homeowners interested in securing an insurance credit or discount for their lightning protection system installation should check with their agent or broker for assistance in determining their eligibility for a discount.
Q: When is the best time to have a lightning protection system installed?
There are a variety of options that allow for lightning protection to be installed for existing structures and new construction at any time. If you are building a new home, it’s best to specify your lightning protection needs during the planning and design phase.
Q: Is there lightning protection for trees?
Installing protection on the trees that are most vulnerable to lightning protects your tree and limits the chance of a strike in the immediate area. The most effective form of lightning protection for trees uses a copper line attached to the top of the tree to direct the lightning strike away from the tree into a grounding rod buried nearby.
Q: What precautions can I take to protect my family from lightning?
During a storm, it’s best to take shelter in a house or other fully enclosed building. Inside, don’t stand near open windows, doorways or metal piping. Stay off the phone and avoid contact with small appliances, like toasters and hairdryers. As water conducts electricity, also stay away from plumbing, sinks, tubs and radiators.
- If you know a storm is coming, avoid known hazards and dangerous locations. These include areas where you will be the highest object—a golf course, for example. Bodies of water also attract lightning, so avoid lakes, beaches or open water, and fishing from a boat or dock. Never ride golf carts, farm equipment, motorcycles or bicycles during a thunderstorm.
- If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, take shelter in a hard topped-vehicle or a low area such as a tunnel or even a cave if necessary. Stay clear of fences, isolated trees and other conductive objects such as telephone poles, power lines and pipelines. These present a danger from a potential side flash, which is voltage from a nearby, lightning-struck object.
- If you’re caught in an open field with no nearby shelter, and your hair begins to stand on end, drop down into a crouch with your hands on your knees, and balance on the balls of your feet. The static electricity in your hair is an indication that lightning is about to strike, and the idea is to make as little contact with the ground as possible. Never lie down flat or place your hands on the ground.
Q: What else can I do to prepare?
Your safety and that of your family is of primary importance, and we recommend you take the following precautions well in advance of any serious incoming weather:
- Listen regularly to your local news and your local emergency officials for any updates on bad weather as it can sometimes happen quickly. You can find the latest forecasts and hazardous weather conditions at www.weather.gov and water.weather.gov. In addition, some smart phones are able to receive Flash Flood Warning alerts via the Wireless Emergency Alerts system. Visit www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/wea.html for more information.
- Maintain an emergency supply kit that will sustain you and your family for a 72-hour period. This kit should include flashlights, a portable radio, extra batteries, non-perishable food, bottled water, cash, blankets, clothing and toiletries. Store your kit in a place commonly known to all family members. Replace and refresh items in your kit every six months.
In the case of severe weather, Berkley One’s risk management and claims experts are here to help. Additionally, we offer the PlusOneSM Service Network, a team of vetted and insured contractors and service providers who can help you with proactive installations or repairs. To learn more, contact us here.