Is it Time to Inject a Little Lightning into the Big Weather Discussion?

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré was one of the “big weather” voices at last month’s National Disaster Resilience Conference in Atlanta.

The road to building for resilience is paved with many guideposts designed to promote mitigation measures for weather perils like earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires. Perils rightfully referred to as “big weather” at last month’s National Disaster Resilience Conference (NDRC) 2017 in Atlanta. Hosted by the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), the NDRC signaled FLASH’s 19th year of bringing disaster safety stakeholders together to advance a shared movement to strengthen homes and safeguard families from disasters of all kinds.

In an opening address that set the tone for the big weather deliberations, FLASH President and CEO, Leslie Chapman-Henderson, prepped NDRC participants for a two-day journey with a road map for partner interaction, knowledge exchange and innovative collaboration. Armed with ammo, safety stakeholders hailing from organizations such as ICC, BASF, USAA, ISO and AIA, converged to help Chapman-Henderson steer the conference course. Serving as disaster safety co-pilots, the collective partner organizations helped facilitate programs, panels, and exhibits designed to examine various impacts of big weather. Hearty discussions delved into innovative developments in science, economics, policy, design and construction—trends that are driving resilience. On the heels of an especially rocky and tempestuous disaster season, NDRC’s focus on big weather could not have been timelier.

While probing both challenges and innovations associated with big weather, I couldn’t help but think about lightning and reflect on the hard-earned advancements that LPI and its partners have made in the realm of lightning safety and lightning protection education. And naturally, as an advocate for lightning safety awareness, I couldn’t help but inject a little lightning into the big conversations at NDRC, whenever appropriate.

With the U.S. experiencing more than 40 million lightning strikes each year, it’s no surprise that lightning is a year-round concern for U.S. homes and businesses. In fact, in terms of overall losses, lightning has been known to outrank destruction caused by caused by floods, fires, explosions, earthquakes and vandalism. Just a snapshot of recent events depicting loss of lifedamaged homesloss of businessdamaged infrastructureand widespread property devastation provides a striking glimpse into lightning’s lingering impact. Perhaps more alarming, are recent reports from scientists predicting significant increases in lightning activity.

When we consider that lightning is already the weather peril that affects most of the people, most of the time, doesn’t it deserve a little of the big weather spotlight? With predictions for increased lightning in the mix, wouldn’t it be great if more mitigation partners got out in front of lightning to help promote risk reduction efforts? (HINT: increased insurance incentives for lightning protection systems and expanded risk assessment measures for lightning in the building code development process are two immediate areas where partners can lend support to help move the risk reduction needle.)

LPI shared “Build and Protect – A Blueprint for Architects and Engineers” brochures with NDRC attendees, as a conference literature sponsor.

With a record-breaking disaster season in the rear view mirror, mitigation partners in the realms of science, insurance, policy, and construction are preparing to take their places on the field of weather risk reduction for 2018 and beyond. So, as we huddle for the game play, let’s not forget about lightning! And while we can’t prevent lightning from striking, we can prepare for future events by working to change attitudes about lightning safety and lightning protection. We already know from our successes that education, and preparation are key in reducing lightning deaths, injuries and property losses.

Perhaps retired Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, said it best while rallying the NDRC troops to action last month. In a short, yet powerful keynote speech, the acknowledged commander of the disaster mitigation movement and author of Leadership in the New Normal, appropriately called the closing play for the Atlanta conference. True to classic Honoré form, the big weather voice got down to brass tacks with a simple reminder: “Prep is the pre-game show.”

So, whether the weather be hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires or LIGHTNING, when we huddle for mitigation and resilience, let’s heed the General’s command and always remember the “prep!”