It’s Electrical Safety Month! Let’s include LIGHTNING in our electrical safety plans and discussions.
May is National Electrical Safety Month and each year, LPI supports the Electrical Safety Foundation International’s campaign to raise awareness. While supporting the campaign, LPI also takes the opportunity to remind the public of the dangers of a frequently overlooked and often underrated electrical danger; you guessed it–lightning.
When it comes to electricity, lightning may be the reigning queen, packing a rapid discharge of mega energy that can carry up to 300 million volts and 30,000 amps. That’s a powerful charge, compared to your household electrical current of 120 volts and 15 amps. It’s no surprise that a single lightning strike can kill a human or even an entire herd of cattle in an instant, and destroy an unprotected tree or structure in a flash of light.
Unfortunately, since lightning is the weather peril most frequently experienced by most people, most of the time in the U.S., we often see complacency and apathy about the risk. While NOAA, NWS and the National Lightning Safety Council are leading the way to promote awareness about lightning safety for people, LPI is helping to build lightning safe communities by sharing Build & Protect resources about benefits that safety Standard-compliant lightning protection systems (LPS) can provide for structures and property.
Lightning induced electrical fires can be especially destructive when a strike ignites a structural fire in one of the following ways:
* Through a direct strike
* In an arc discharge between two conductive objects at different induced potentials
* By a current surge in circuitry and electrical equipment
* By the overflow of substantial electrical current which causes overheating, melting or vaporizing of metal
* By arcing of lightning current from conductors at high-resistance grounds
* Through lightning puncturing pinholes in CSST gas piping
Since the key to electrical and fire safety is to prevent hazards before they happen, planning and awareness about personal lightning safety and specification and installation of safety Standard compliant LPS are important elements of a comprehensive electrical safety approach.
National safety Standards for LPS call for practical and tested solutions to protect a structure, its occupants, contents, equipment and operations. A complete system includes: strike termination devices, conductors, ground terminals, interconnecting bonding to minimize side flashing, and surge protection devices for incoming power, data and communication lines to prevent harmful electrical surges. Additional bonding and surge protection devices for vulnerable appliances may be needed, as well. In a nutshell, properly designed and installed LPS is always a total package protection approach.
So let’s play it safe with nature’s electrical risk. While enjoying the May flowers, please take care to head indoors whenever thunder roars. And for prevention-minded folks who want to make their safe places safer, make sure your LPS provider’s materials and methods comply with safety Standard recommendations of NFPA 780.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May to increase public awareness of electrical hazards. For more information about ESFI and electrical safety, visit www.esfi.org.
Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) Pipes Have Been Linked to Fires, Gas Leaks
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — MARYVILLE, Mo, April 27, 2017 — The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is telling its members to take liability precautions when installing lightning protection systems (LPS) on homes equipped with corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST), a common gas piping.
Lawsuits have alleged that CSST’s thin-walled composition has made it susceptible to fires caused either by lightning strikes or gas leaks linked to perforations in the piping. CSST manufacturers have denied charges that their products are either defective or contributed to property damage which would otherwise not have occurred.
“While safety Standard-compliant lightning protection systems provide proven and effective protection for homeowners against a leading weather threat, continued litigation and unknowns about CSST are a concern for our industry,” said Bud VanSickle, executive director for LPI.
“Unfortunately, the efficacy of these bonding practices hasn’t been verified, so there isn’t data to assure us that these tactics are solving the lightning susceptibility problems associated with the CSST product,” explained VanSickle. “Due to safety unknowns and the continued litigation, LPI is advising its members to disclaim CSST in very clear terms in their work proposals and documents.”
Concerns about CSST have prompted a national public awareness campaign, National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA) reviews, lawsuits and class action settlements. One was reached recently, for instance, with property owners in Maryland http://www.csstsettlement.com/.
LPI recently began a partnership with the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) http://www.firemarshals.org/ to help promote awareness and improve safety measures connected with CSST and the product’s susceptibility to lightning. Both groups are supporting efforts within the codes and standards community to increase performance criteria for CSST products.
“Documentation for CSST fire incidents is nonexistent, which makes it impossible to understand and solve the problem,” said Becky Teel, spokesperson for the Brennen Teel Foundation http://www.btfgaslinesafety.org/. Teel’s son, Brennen, died in 2012 in a Lubbock, Texas, home fire and explosion allegedly caused by the failure of yellow jacketed CSST.
According to the fire marshal’s report, lightning struck the metal chimney cap and arced to the gas piping of the Lubbock home where Mr. Teel was visiting. Brennen Teel, who was 31 years old, was killed when gas which had escaped through tiny holes in the CSST piping—reportedly punctured by the electrical charge produced by a direct lightning strike—ignited an explosive fire.
“We need a central database to catalog the important information about this fire risk, and we need it now,” added Teel.
“Great strides have been made in constructing fire-resistant buildings and improving fire-suppression techniques, both of which have reduced the number of fires in the U.S. Nonetheless, builders, firefighters and insurers are constantly working to mitigate fire risk wherever it exists,” said Michael Barry, vice president, media relations, Insurance Information Institute.
“The lightning protection industry has taken notice of numerous and mounting CSST-related lawsuits around the country—we’re concerned about protecting homeowners and our members,” said VanSickle. “As a nationwide group dedicated to lightning safety and lightning protection, we will continue to petition the codes and standards community for more improvement and urge the CSST manufacturers to support more research.”
The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is a not-for-profit, nationwide group founded in 1955 to promote lightning safety, awareness and education and is a leading resource for lightning protection information and system requirements. Visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org for more information.
Contact: Kimberly Loehr LSA/LPI Communications Office firstname.lastname@example.org 804-314-8955
Will 2017 receive a five-star ⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡rating for lightning losses in the U.S.?
It seems those March winds and April showers may have ushered in more than spring flowers for many property owners across the country. According to new statistics shared by partners at the Insurance Information Institute, U.S. insurance and reinsurance markets have seen record costs from losses due to thunderstorms and convective weather. With $5.7 billion losses cited, the first-quarter of 2017 has seen more than its fair share of stormy skies–and for many parts of the country, it’s not even officially lightning season yet! In terms of costly weather, you could say that 2017 may be deserving of a “five-lightning bolt” rating.
The good news? While lightning is often a leading threat associated with thunderstorms and tornado conditions, property losses associated with this weather peril can be minimized, if not eliminated through the implementation of safety Standard-compliant lightning protection systems (LPS). This is another reason why LPS has become increasingly important for the building process, as planners and businesses continue to emphasize sustainability and resilience in design and construction. In an era where technology, delivery methods and construction science are evolving at such a lightning-fast pace, specifying LPS is a recognized part of the best practice risk management approach.
Looking to learn more? Architects and Engineers are urged to visit LPI’s A&E portal for important “Build & Protect” materials and information. Property owners may want to visit LPI’s learning center for videos and resources to see how lightning protection systems are helping to reduce structural losses in the U.S.
Join LPI in Orlando for three days of fast-paced, hard-hitting ideas, inspiration, education, networking, and innovation from some of the industry-leading architects, firms, and building product manufacturers.
You build it. We help PROTECT it!
Recognizing the importance of disaster mitigation for the architect and engineering communities, Build & Protect , is a newsletter written specifically for A&E’s to provide unique content related to lightning protection system (LPS) design, specification, quality assurance, inspection and maintenance.
Find out how the inclusion of safety Standard-compliant lightning protection systems in your state-of-the-art designs can benefit the building environment.
Highlights from the LPI/ULPA Lightning Protection Conference
Over 100 industry experts from across the U.S. and Canada converged at the Woodlands Resort & Conference Center in Texas last month for educational enrichment, professional development, speaker programs and lightning protection brainstorming sessions.
In the spirit of learning from the past, and protecting for the future, LPI and ULPA members also participated in three separate panel-moderated forums to discuss:
* Job Site Safety for LPS Installations
* LPS for Miscellaneous (nonstandard) Structures
* LPS Installation Guidelines and Best Practices for Difficult Structures
Representatives from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes-FLASH and the Insurance Information Institute provided partnership updates and outlined strategies for continued networking in 2017. Mike Rimoldi, Senior Vice President of Education and Technical Programs with FLASH reviewed the building code process and delivered an update of the “HurricaneStrong Home” in Breezy Point, New York–a resilient rebuild project that LPI is helping to sponsor.
Jeanne Salvatore, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Chief Communications Officer for the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), provided a partnership overview along with a lightning data and damage statistics report. Information about lightning protection and insurance is available at iii.org and the LPI website.
“Being here with LPI is crucial to what FLASH does to advance lightning protection and safety,” said Rimoldi. “We are very pleased that LPI is committed to the #HurricaneStrong Home– their participation strengthens the connection between industry, LPI members, and promotion of lightning protection in commercial and residential construction.”
Inspection is Key Component to Safe & Effective LPS
It’s important to remember that safe and effective lightning protection begins with proper system design, continues with the implementation of quality materials and installation practices, and ends with inspection and certification.
The Lightning Protection Institute Inspection Program (LPI-IP) provides a lightning protection inspection and certification service more thorough and more complete than any previous inspection program from LPI or any other service currently on the market. By incorporating checkpoints, reviews and inspections, the LPI-IP certification program ensures safety and peace of mind to building owners about the U.S.
The LPI-IP program responds to the designer’s ultimate ‘Build & Protect’ lightning protection goal to provide safety, security of investment and elimination of potential system downtime. The program was created to provide the most comprehensive inspection service for LPS in terms of safety, quality control and professionalism. Checkout LPI’s recent blog to find out why LPI-IP is the industry’s fastest growing lightning protection inspection service, with a 300% growth rate since 2011.
Make sure your LPS project isn’t missing the important inspection component. Visit www.lpi-ip.com for more information about the LPI-IP Program.
“Closing the Loop” to Prevent Under-reporting of CSST and Lightning Fire Incidents
In recent years, LPI has petitioned the fire safety community to include relevant data about lightning and corrugated stainless steel (CSST) gas tubing in its NFIRS reports to prevent under-reporting of these associated fire incidents and increase public awareness about potential safety risks. Unlike traditional heavier walled gas pipe, the corrugated design and the thin walls of CSST have proved problematic and susceptible to lightning’s high intensity electric charge. Lightning energies can perforate holes in the CSST and allow gas leakage and fire. In worst case scenarios, such leaks have led to devastating home fires.
A report released by the National Association of State Fire Marshals Fire Research and Education Foundation (NASFM Foundation), in 2014 concurred that “updating incident data reports when fire departments obtain new information could have the largest impact of any activity on reducing the high percentage of serious fires reported as having undetermined causal data.” The NASFM Foundation refers to this as “closing the loop” on a fire incident report.
In an effort to better protect homeowners from the possible loss of life and property, the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office is conducting a TEXFIRS/NFIRS Special Study to identify fire incidents where flexible gas piping (CSST) was present in a structure. The three-year study will detail fire department responding incidents from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2019.
“Understanding a problem at the state or national level requires documentation to see what’s happening from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,” said Fire Marshal Garett Nelson of the Lubbock Fire Rescue in Texas. “With regard to Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST), documentation has been virtually non-existent, and we need the documentation to better understand this complex fire problem.”
“In our quest to gather facts about the safety issues connected with CSST, it has become apparent that a central database to collectively house and catalog this important information is an immediate necessity,” stressed Becky Teel, spokesperson for the Brennen Teel Foundation . Teel’s son, Brennen died in 2012 in a Lubbock home fire and explosion allegedly caused by the failure of yellow jacketed CSST. According to the fire marshal’s report, lightning struck the metal chimney cap and arced to the gas piping of the home where Brennen was visiting. Brennen, who was just 31 years old, died instantly when gas which had escaped tiny holes in the CSST piping (believed to be punctured by lightning), ignited an explosive fire.
LPI recently began a partnership with the NASFM to support its campaign to help improve safety measures connected with CSST and the product’s susceptibility to lightning-related fires. LPI, NASFM and the Brennen Teel Foundation believe that safety can be increased through the adoption of an improved performance criteria for flexible gas piping (ICC-ES PMG LC1027), which is presently available for installation in new homes.
There’s a saying that goes, “An architect’s dream is an engineer’s nightmare.” A&E’s seeking to keep pace with lightning protection trends to help fortify their building dreams and nightmares, won’t want to miss an issue of Build & Protect !
There’s an old saying many lightning protection professionals are familiar with, that you may have heard it before, “Churches attract more lightning than sinners.” While the saying is meant in jest, there is quite a bit of evidence that lightning causes a lot of headaches for churches–especially when we consider the fact that churches are spending millions of dollars each year on property damage due to lightning fires.
Fire is just part of the cost equation and doesn’t include damages caused by electrical surges that can disrupt and destroy wiring, computers, sound systems, alarm systems and electronics. Just last week, video from a security camera captured a massive lightning strike to a church in Ellijay, GA. The strike blew a hole in the church’s roof and sent an explosion of brick, wood and building debris into the early morning sky. A church spokesperson estimated that repairs to replace the damaged roof, and electrical equipment will cost at least $30,000 to restore. The video of the Ellijay church also helps illustrate three important concepts about lightning and lightning protection systems (LPS):
1) Lightning protection doesn’t attract lightning (the church steeple was equipped with a single lightning rod), but the lightning strike hit the roof at the opposite side of the structure.
2) Steeple only grounding doesn’t equate as a lightning protection system when it comes to protecting an entire structure.
3) Since lightning can and does (as shown in this video) strike objects outside of a “zone of protection,” steeple only grounding is not based on sound engineering principles or science. Engineers and building designers frequently refer to the rolling sphere method to determine where lightning protection components are required on a structure. (Zone of protection is explained in the NFPA 780 Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems and the rolling sphere method has been illustrated as a graphic.)
The above points help emphasize that steeple only grounding does not typically protect an entire structure, which is why partial LPS methods do not comply with NFPA 780. In fact, many experts warn that installation of partial lightning protection, designed to ground a steeple, cupola or weathervane, could be more dangerous than providing no protection at all. A single path to ground is not adequate to conduct the current involved with a lightning discharge. When lightning strikes a partial “system” (such as a grounded cupola, steeple or single point mast), side-flash to other conductive components on or in a structure can also occur. This side-flashing can damage building wiring, computer systems and electronics and even ignite fires. There’s no safe way to provide proper grounding from a punch that can pack up to 300 million volts of electricity and 30,000 amps–which is why all elements (strike termination devices, down conductors, bonding, grounding and surge protection) are essential for complete and effective LPS.
Reasons why churches are specifying lightning protection now more than ever before include:
• Insurers now require higher levels of safety for public venues such as churches, which often includes the installation of a LPS.
• Studies from the American Geophysical Union confirm that conventional lightning protection systems, in accordance with NFPA 780 Safety Standard, are highly effective in reducing lightning-caused fires and electrical surge damage to churches.
• Lightning protection systems do not attract lightning, but simply provide a preferred path of low resistance to dissipate lightning’s electricity.
• Lightning is a leading cause of church fires; estimated as responsible for 30% of such fires in the U.S.
• Lightning protection systems direct lightning’s harmful current to ground, instead of traveling through the building’s plumbing or electrical systems.
So when in doubt about LPS, a trained, LPI-certified lightning specialist is your best point of reference to ensure that your installation includes all components necessary to protect your facility.
The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) conducts numerous educational, promotional and quality oriented programs on lightning protection and lightning safety and is the leading resource for lightning protection information and system requirements. Visit the LPI website or download a copy of LPI’s brochure to learn more about LPS for churches and houses of worship.
Join LPI and the CE Academy for an Enlightening Day of Continuing Education and Networking in a City Near You!
Looking to learn more about LPS Continuing Education in a Lunch & Learn setting? The LPI is partnering with the Lightning Safety Alliance (LSA) and the CE Academy to bring the Lightning Protection 101 (LSA 101) course to your doorstep!
In each one day event, the CE Academy provides 4-8 hours of AIA-registered CE courses, including breakfast and lunch! For your convenience, the CE Academy also issues certificates of completion and reports AIA credits for every event. The LSA 101 Lightning Protection session is a one-hour course which includes a review of proper lightning protection system design and application as conforming with NFPA and UL lightning protection requirements. LSA 101 participants receive (1) AIA HSW /LU credit.
LSA 101 providers have have extensive knowledge of lightning protection methods and are actively involved in the lightning protection industry and its trade associations. Learning Objectives of the LSA 101 course include:
- Participants will gain a general understanding of how lightning protection systems work including the five essential elements of effective lightning protection systems.
- At the end of the program participants will be aware of the considerations that should be made during project planning to specify effective, attractive and low-maintenance lightning protection systems for all types of structures.
- Provide project planners with a general understanding of lightning protection systems.
- Make planners aware of the five (5) essential elements of a lightning protection system.
- Identify the areas planners should consider when specifying lightning protection systems.
Wondering if your LPS design or installation meets industry guidelines and requirements? Not sure if your project specifications comply with nationally-recognized safety Standards? A third-party quality control inspection is your key to quality assurance.
While experts agree that quality control is a key component for safe and effective lightning protection, knowing where to turn for up-to-date and accurate lightning protection information can be difficult. And with quality control concerns increasing in the construction marketplace, best practices for lightning protection system (LPS) specification, design and installation are more important than ever before.
Why LPS Inspection is an important component in the “Build & Protect” process
A single bolt of lightning can generate up to 200 kA of destructive electric current, making lightning protection an important amenity for designers seeking to Build & Protect against a leading weather threat that’s responsible for over a billion dollars in property damage every year. Most of lightning-related property losses can be minimized, if not eliminated, through the implementation of safety Standard-compliant LPS for structures. Third-party inspection can identify the LPS oversights, improper materials or methods, issues with Standard compliance and the need for repairs or recommended maintenance. The Lightning Protection Institute Inspection Program (LPI-IP) provides a lightning protection inspection and certification service more thorough and more complete than any previous inspection program from the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) or any other service currently on the market. By incorporating checkpoints, reviews and inspections, the LPI-IP certification program ensures safety and peace of mind to building owners about the U.S.
“The value received from a lightning protection system begins with proper design, continues through quality installation practices and must include inspection and certification,” explained Bud VanSickle, executive director for LPI. “The LPI-IP program responds to the designer’s ultimate ‘Build & Protect’ lightning protection goal to provide safety, security of investment and elimination of potential system downtime. The program was created to provide the most complete inspection service for LPS in terms of safety, quality control and professionalism,” added VanSickle.
Key Components of the LPI-IP Inspection Program
- LPI-IP keeps pace with technology by providing system certifications with a three-year expiration date to complement the NFPA 780 three-year code review cycle and process.
- LPI-IP is serving a growing need for property owners, designers, architects and builders as a comprehensive third-party inspection approach for commercial and residential projects.
- LPI-IP inspections are accepted in MasterSpec as a quality control inspection option for lightning protection.
- LPI-IP services include design review by a professional engineer, documentation of concealed components and verification of grounding and NRTL* field inspection of rooftop LPS.
- LPI-IP enjoys recognition by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), with services reported in press releases and industry communications.
- LPI-IP provides three different types of certifications and inspection options (LPI-IP Master Installation, LPI-IP Reconditioned Master Installation and LPI-IP Limited Scope) to address any type of project.
- LPI-IP offers users the option of Standard specific inspections (LPI175, NFPA 780 and/or UL96A), to accommodate market needs and a wider range of projects.
- Unlike other inspection services in the market, LPI-IP does not provide certification for unconventional or non-Standard LPS methods or devices. For your safety and quality assurance, LPI-IP only recognizes systems which comply with Nationally-recognized safety Standards.
- LPI-IP is the industry’s fastest growing lightning protection inspection service, with a 300% growth rate since 2011.
LPI-IP inspection and certification services provide peace of mind to ensure materials and methods comply with recommended practices and industry safety Standards. For more information about the LPI-IP Program, visit www.lpi-ip.com or contact:
Tim Harger, LPI-IP Program Manager, 14048 W. Petronella Drive, Suite 104, Libertyville, Illinois 60048, Phone: 224-433-6680, email@example.com
For additional information about LPI and lightning protection, visit www.lightning.org.
*Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory
The Florida Green Home Standard Reference Guide was developed by the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) in 2004 to share information on green home practices and provide details on how to earn points for complying with the Florida Green Home Designation Standard.
To help mitigate the significant threat that lightning poses, the FGBC now includes credits for lightning protection to provide incentives for homeowners looking to install these systems. The mitigation intent is explained in the 2015 edition of the Guide:
“Florida is the lightning capital of the US. The number one cause of house fires in our state is lightning. The cost of a lightning protection system can be less than an LCD TV and increases the home’s protection from wildfires and reduces the amount of damaged electronic equipment ending up in the landfill. No electrical protection system is considered 100% effective; however, a lightning protection system can stop a direct hit, making it the most effective form of fire and electrical protection.”
The FGBC Green Home Standard cites credit requirements for Lightning Protection and Surge Protection as follows:
Requirement: Lightning Protection: A lightning protection system must be installed by a UL and LPI (Lighting Protection Institute) certified company. The company needs to be listed on the LPI site as a dealer/contractor, not simply as a member.
Surge Protection System: The surge protection devices (SPD) that include phone, coax when appropriate, and a whole house protection device installed per manufacturer’s instructions either inside or outside where the electrical utility enters the home. The SPD should be stamped with an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label to verify the unit meets the latest safety standards. If installed outdoors the unit should be Type 1 listed by UL, and if installed indoors the unit should be listed either Type 1 or Type 2.
- Type 1- These are permanently connected SPDs intended for installation between the secondary of the service transformer and the line side of the service equipment overcurrent device as well as the load side (including watthour meter adapters). Previously known as surge arresters, these devices are intended to be installed without an external overcurrent protective device.
- Type 2-These are permanently connected SPDs intended for installation on the load side of the service equipment overcurrent device, including SPDs located at the branch panel.
Denoting that credits are specific to an “individual unit” rather than multi-family, the FGBC allots credit points for LPS as follows:
“1 point for Surge Protection”
“2 Points for Lightning Protection”
Since a typical bolt of lightning can generate up to 200 kA of electrical energy, the threat of fire from a direct or indirect electrical surge to homes and businesses is very real. A lightning protection system is an important consideration for inclusion in the “build and protect” design process. For architects, engineers and designers interested in learning more about lightning protection, LPI has resources to share.
Unfortunately, even though lightning is the weather threat that affects most people, most of the time in Florida and throughout the U.S. as well, it seems that many homeowners may not be taking advantage of this credit-worthy mitigation tactic.
“Lightning protection is included in the FGBC checkpoints, but to-date I haven’t seen anyone submit LPS to earn points for compliance with the Florida Green Home Designation Standard.” said research architect, Stephanie Thomas-Rees.
According to Thomas-Rees, a lack of action on the part of homeowners, could be due to a “lack of understanding about the cost-effectiveness of lightning protection systems.”
Thomas-Rees, who serves on the FGBC Board, is also an Adjunct Professor at Dayton State College and a proponent of continuing education.
“Lunch and Learns are a great way for architects to learn more about building amenities and green home practices like lightning protection,” Thomas-Rees explained.
Architects and engineers who are seeking to learn more about lightning protection Continuing Education in a Lunch and Learn setting, can contact LPI for assistance, or visit the Lightning Safety Alliance website for information about its AIA Registered “Lightning Protection 101” (LSA 101) program. For more information about green building practices for homeowners, visit: www.FloridaGreenBuilding.org.
How Homeowners can Enlighten HOA’s about System Benefits
Awareness about the dangers of lightning to people and property has significantly increased since the National Weather Service began its annual safety campaign in 2001. With consumer organizations like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) citing a demonstrated track record of lightning protection systems (LPS) in helping to reduce property losses, more and more homeowners are examining the cost benefits of LPS. While LPS provide security, increased building resiliency and peace of mind against a common weather peril, not every homeowner’s association (HOA) may have a clear understanding of these systems and the benefits they provide. Although homeowners should expect to be able to have LPS installed on their property with little or no restrictions, sometimes HOA approval may be needed to ensure system materials and methods comply with national safety Standards of LPI, NFPA and UL.
Understanding Your HOA
A HOA is a third-party nonprofit organization created for a subdivision, condominium or housing development to regulate property and various aspects of ownership. New community developments are often required to form these mandatory membership organizations which establish and enforce common agreements for residents. These agreements are typically prepared in the form of covenants or bylaws, which allow the HOA authority to oversee preservation, maintenance and enhancement of both private and communal property. Enforcing the governing documents, collecting unpaid dues, handling resident disputes and dealing with contractors are just a few of the issues HOAs handle. Regarding specific aspects of property ownership, it’s not uncommon for HOA agreements to regulate the following:
* Décor and adornment (painting selection, window coverings, flags and weathervanes)
* Roofing, re-roofing, antennas and weathervanes
* Fencing, mailboxes, basketball hoops and swing sets
* House design sheds, garages and outdoor lights
* Pet ownership
* Garbage cans and compost bins
* Pest control and waste cleanup
Even when home enhancements are not specifically mentioned, homeowners can still be subject to restrictions.
“Since HOA agreements serve a communal purpose, they can regulate many aspects of homeownership,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)® “Unfortunately, conflicts between the homeowner and the HOA can arise when guidelines for certain amenities are unclear or omitted. As technology and construction rapidly advances to provide homeowners with more information and options to enhance disaster-resiliency, it may be helpful for HOAs to reexamine certain guidelines to be sure they are keeping pace with mitigation and eco-friendly building trends,” explained Chapman-Henderson.
Navigating HOA restrictions
So what should homeowners do when standard HOA agreements exclude guidelines for energy efficiency products, weather-proofing efforts and disaster-resilient measures such as lightning protection systems? Consultation with the HOA prior to contracting for improvement services is the best plan of action; and education is often a critical part of the consultation process.
For homeowners considering the installation of LPS, the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), is a not-for-profit group that provides resources and educational information about lightning protection and lightning safety. LPI offers the following facts and information about LPS for homeowners to share with the HOA during the consultation process:
- When LPS comply with national safety Standards of LPI, NFPA and UL, they provide proven and effective grounding to dissipate lightning’s harmful electrical discharge. Professionally-installed LPS are inconspicuous to the untrained-eye and do not detract from a home’s aesthetics.
- Lightning accounts for more than one billion dollars annually in damage to buildings in the U.S.-a statistic that doesn’t include costs due to downtime and repairs. Since today’s homes are equipped with highly sensitive electronic systems, LPS are more essential than ever before.
- The complete LPS network includes: strike termination devices (air terminals or rods); conductors and/or conductive structural members; interconnecting connectors, fittings and bonding; grounding electrodes; and surge protective devices (SPD’s).
- LPS improves building resilience and sustainability against a common weather threat. A bolt of lightning can generate up to 200 kA of electrical energy, making the threat of a fire from a direct strike or an indirect electrical surge to a home very real. In fact, lightning is a leading cause of property loss in the U.S., which is why architects and engineers frequently specify LPS for Green and LEED structures as a building resilience measure.
- LPS fortifies technology and is increasingly recommended for smart homes. Lightning can initiate a domino effect path of transient overvoltage which can disrupt, degrade and damage multiple electronic systems and connected equipment within the home. As homes become smarter with intelligent systems, the need for LPS becomes more critical.
- LPS provides an enhanced grounding network for lightning’s mega electricity. Even though homes are grounded for normal electricity, they are still highly vulnerable to lightning’s destructive power which can pack up to 300 million volts of electricity and 30,000 amps. Compared to a household electrical current of 120 volts and 15 amps, lightning’s extreme electricity packs a powerful punch.
- With lightning striking the earth over 100 times a second, LPS provides a value-added home amenity against the weather peril that affects most people, most of the time, in most areas of the country.
- Insurance providers are recognizing the benefits of LPS more than ever before, with many offering policy credits and incentives for safety Standard-compliant systems.
- LPS is an affordable property enhancement. Pricing for LPS typically runs less than 1% the value of a structure (often less expensive than security systems, generators and specialty lighting).
Modifying Community Bylaws for Lightning Safe Communities
When a homeowner has trouble resolving matters with the HOA, it can be helpful to elicit the support of neighbors and the community. The qualified LPS provider is likely to be well-versed in working with HOAs and knowing how to deal with compliance issues and negotiations. Oftentimes, the LPS provider can schedule a presentation and a Q & A meeting to help educate the community and HOA board members about LPS and their company’s track record in providing these services. Since HOA’s are typically governed by state laws, their bylaws also give these organizations the right to impose fines on homeowners who do not comply with the regulations. Naturally, most homeowners want to avoid this type of conflict, which is why it can be helpful to petition your neighbors for support if bylaws need to be examined to include or reference guidelines for additional services. An experienced LPS provider can assist when HOA’s have questions about quality assurance and industry guidelines for LPS.
Final Thoughts to Consider, When Considering LPS
“While it’s true that lightning losses are generally a covered peril in most property insurance policies, there are treasured belongings that homeowners can’t replace or restore,” said Chapman-Henderson. “Lightning protection is often one of the least expensive improvements that homeowners can purchase and it can provide the best type of insurance–peace of mind and protection for family, home and valuables.”
“It’s important that HOA’s understand that safety Standard-compliant lightning protection systems are effective in mitigating the potential disastrous effects of lightning provided they are designed, installed and maintained in accordance with national safety Standards,” explained Bud VanSickle, executive director for the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI),. “Homeowners need to be aware that installation of LPS is not a do-it-yourself project. An experienced LPI-certified contractor should install the system to ensure materials and methods comply with industry Standards,” explained VanSickle.
Need More Information?
Homeowners seeking information about lightning’s risks and the benefits of lightning protection systems can watch this short YouTube video, “How to Protect Your Home in a FLASH.” Homeowners can also visit the LPI website at http://lightning.org/find-an-installer/ for a list of certified contractors.