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!”

Make Plans to Attend the 2018 ULPA/LPI Lightning Protection Conference!

Registration is open for the 86th Annual ULPA/LPI Lightning Protection Conference at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa on February 28 – March 3, 2018.

LPI member company, Bonded Lightning Protection of Florida will serve as our industry host for the annual meeting, which will feature:
  • * Industry Updates & Reports
  • * Education & Speaker Sessions
  • * Breakout Workshops for Professional Development
  • * LPI Certification & Testing Sessions
  • * Networking Opportunities
  • * Golfing & Social Events
The deadline for rooms and registration is January 22, 2018, so be sure to REGISTER and book your HOTEL RESERVATIONS ASAP!
Details for the annual golfing outing can be found HERE.
What: 86th Annual ULPA/LPI Lightning Protection Conference
When: February 28 – March 3, 2018
Where: The Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa 
How: Toll-Free Reservation Center: 1-800-239-5610. Please mention booking code: “ULPA LPI Conference” when making reservations.

Interested in being a Conference sponsor? Due to overwhelming industry response, the United Lightning Protection Association (ULPA) is once again offering sponsorship opportunities for this year’s Conference. Sponsorship opportunities start at just $250 and provide a great way to put your company name in the spotlight at the industry’s largest annual event. Want to see your company featured at the 2018 Conference?  Your industry colleagues are reserving their commitment levels lightning-fast, so be sure to

SIGN-UP today to reserve your preferred sponsorship spot!

Visit the LPI Booth at the Critical Facilities Summit!

Headed to Minneapolis this month? Be sure to join LPI at the 5th annual Critical Facilities Summit, an Expo that brings the best of the mission critical community together for three days of unbeatable networking, education and product discovery! The Summit is designed for senior-level professionals responsible for the design, construction, management and operations of all mission critical facilities. Both the Expo and the Summit are conveniently located at the Minneapolis Convention Center, which is in the vibrant downtown area near many of the city’s top restaurants and attractions. For more details and information, visit the Summit website at www.criticalfacilitiessummit.com

What: Critical Facilities Summit

Where: LPI Booth #326 at the Minneapolis Convention Center

When: October 23-25, 2017

 

 

 

 

What Homeowners Need to Know about Lightning and its Fire Risk

In Support of National Fire Prevention Week, October 8-14 

This past summer, lightning-sparked fires claimed the lives of homeowners in several U.S. states. Fortunately, property owners can prevent these tragic fires with the installation of a professionally-installed, NFPA 780 compliant lightning protection system (LPS).

It’s the middle of the night when you and your family are awakened by a loud boom of a thunder-clap. Your windows rattle as you feel your house shake. Your instincts tell you your home has been struck by lightning, but what should you do?

“Anyone who suspects a lightning strike to their home should immediately check their enclosed spaces, like the attic and basement—even if the smoke alarm isn’t sounding and even if you don’t smell smoke,” said Georgia State Fire Marshal, Dwayne Garriss.

According to Garriss, lightning-sparked fires occur more often than people realize. Because lightning is the weather event that affects most people in most parts of the country, it’s important for homeowners to take the threat seriously and have a plan of action.

A lingering acrid smell or fallen debris from damaged chimneys or shingles can be evidence of a lightning strike,” explained Garriss. “Since lightning fires aren’t always visible in their beginning stages, it’s important to investigate your property and call the fire department immediately.”

“Lightning is extreme electricity that can carry up to 300 million volts of energy,” said Bud VanSickle, executive director of the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). “When you compare lightning with an average household electrical current of 120 volts and 15 amps, you understand how devastating a lightning strike can be to an unprotected home.”

This past summer, lightning-sparked fires claimed the lives of homeowners and senior citizens in several U.S. states, including: New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Since it only takes a single lightning strike to ignite a devastating fire, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), created a new infographic to illustrate the numerous ways lightning can enter a home, including:

  • Through a direct strike that can ignite fires or explode roofing, brick or concrete
  • Via roof projections like weather vanes, antennas and satellite dishes
  • Through a strike to a chimney or prominent roof dormer
  • Via telephone or power lines that can harm internal wiring and electronic equipment
  • Via surges or side flash delivered through a nearby tree
  • Through home systems like garage doors or cable lines
  • Via home amenities like irrigation systems, invisible fences and electric gates
  • Through metallic lines, piping or CSST gas piping

The I.I.I. and LPI encourage property owners to investigate the benefits of a professionally-installed lightning protection system (LPS) to mitigate the lightning threat. Lightning protection systems that follow the guidelines of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provide a network of low-resistance paths to safely intercept lightning’s dangerous electricity and direct it to ground without impact to the structure or its occupants.

LPI is a proud supporter of the NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, October 8-14, 2017. This year’s campaign theme, “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” seeks to educate the public about the importance of developing a home escape plan and practicing it. In any fire, including those sparked by lightning, seconds count and can determine the difference between a safe escape or a tragedy.

“LPI is leading a ‘Build and Protect’ effort for lightning safety by providing important lightning protection resources for property owners, architects, engineers and construction planners,” explained VanSickle. “Taking a proactive mitigation approach can help prevent lightning-sparked fires at all types of structures.”

To learn more about this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out” and home escape planning, visit firepreventionweek.org.

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 and system requirements. Visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org for more information.

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Save the Date! Plans underway for the 2018 LPI/ULPA Lightning Protection Conference!

The 86th annual industry conference, scheduled for February 27 – March 2, 2018, will feature educational sessions, professional development, networking opportunities, golfing, social events and much more! LPI members, Pat Dillon and Kim Stauder of Bonded Lightning Protection in Jupiter, FL, will once again serve as conference hosts at one of our favorite destinations; the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa.

Mark your calendars and stay tuned to the LPI website for more conference news and updates coming soon!

ESFI and LPI Warn of Lightning’s Lingering and Costly Threat to Property Owners

ARLINGTON, Va.Sept. 19, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — With the Atlantic Hurricane Season in full swing through November, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) are working to spread awareness of a less recognized, yet more frequent weather hazard: lightning. According to new data compiled by Impact Forecasting and released by the Insurance Information Institute (III), U.S. insurance and reinsurance markets saw record costs from thunderstorms and convective weather; with 5.7 billion losses cited in the first-quarter of 2017. 

“Lightning is a real danger to you, your home, and your electronics that many people don’t take seriously,” said ESFI President, Brett Brenner. “A single bolt of lightning can cause electrical surges capable of damaging or destroying sensitive equipment. Luckily, you can prepare your home and protect your electronics from this unpredictable, yet common hazard.”

With severe weather, hurricanes, and thunderstorms still prevalent in fall months, ESFI reminds the public to protect their property by unplugging appliances and other electrical items, such as computers and televisions, to prevent damage from surges caused by lightning strikes. Point-of-use surge protection devices can help prevent damage to your electronics, but can’t safeguard against a direct lightning strike, which can carry as much as 300 million volts of electricity and 30,000 amps. If you live in an area prone to lightning, consider a lightning protection system (LPS).

“When you compare lightning’s mega electricity with a typical household electrical current of 120 volts and 15 amps, you understand how devastating a lightning strike can be to an unprotected home,” explained Bud VanSickle, executive director of the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). “Fortunately, home and business owners needn’t take their chances with lightning, as a professionally-installed LPS that follows national safety standards can prevent damage by providing a safe electrical path into the earth for lightning’s destructive energy.”

Safety Standard-compliant LPS is a package approach which includes a system to ground the structure, a primary SPD (or SPD’s) for the service entrance and sometimes secondary surge protection at the point of use for high-end equipment or appliances. The LPS provides a network of low-resistance paths to safely intercept lightning’s dangerous electricity and direct it to ground without impact to the structure or its occupants. When lightning’s electricity is confined to a properly designed conductive path via the LPS, damage is minimized or eliminated. When considering lightning protection, LPI emphasizes the importance of contracting with a qualified and experienced LPI-certified specialist, as the technology is a specialty trade and expertise is required for system design and installation.

About the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI)
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) warns consumers to be aware of electrical dangers associated with severe storms and the resulting floods and power outages. Deaths and injuries during the summer months are frequently caused by post-storm electrical hazards. ESFI is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety. For more information about ESFI and electrical safety, visit www.esfi.org.

About the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI)
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 and system requirements.  Visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org for more information.

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SOURCE Lightning Protection Institute

Why does it take epic devastation to remind us of nature’s wrath and how helpless we are when it decides to take us on its terrifying course?

How do we begin to share a post about lightning in the midst of an epic weather event like Hurricane Harvey? As images of Harvey’s devastation are even difficult to view, we can’t begin to imagine how painful the reality of the hardship is for so many to bear. Dear people of Texas–including many of our LPI lightning protection member companies–our thoughts are with you today. Please know that your LPI friends are hoping and praying for your swift relief and rapid recovery.

When we reflect on hurricanes, memories take us back to Katrina and the massive suffering that settled on New Orleans and its surrounding areas. Then, we remember a tempest with winds that etched images of incredible devastation, which remain forever-fixed in our memories.

It was August of 1992, when Hurricane Andrew bore down and unleashed its wrath on South Florida. The monster storm’s effects would be far-reaching with massive devastation that unmasked serious deficiencies in the state’s building and construction practices. Every obliterated home (over 25,000 destroyed and another 100,000 + damaged), and every shattered life (a statistic we’ll never know), echoed the need for change. And change took hold; igniting a spirit of revitalization that gave birth to an energized disaster safety movement—one with a mission to make communities safer and more resilient.

A strengthening of building codes and construction practices to improve resiliency for homes to withstand flood and wind hazards meant quicker recovery and less reliance on federal tax dollars. A good thing, indeed! And as property owners also embraced ideals of green building and sustainability, construction planners took notice and began to design and deliver more options for “fortified” structures. (Shout-out to LPI partners at IBHS and Federal Alliance for Safe Homes–FLASH, for your good work, here!)

Fortifying homes and businesses to withstand hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and wildfires certainly makes sense, which is why protection against rain, wind, flood and fire is routinely included in our construction models and building codes. But what about lightning? After all, lightning is the weather peril that affects most people, most of the time, in the most areas of the country. Why is it that lightning remains the only naturally-occurring hazard to be ignored in the vast majority of U.S. building codes?

It’s hard to believe that even a state like Florida, where thunderstorms occur more often and do more harm than other weather disasters—has limited codes in place to address lightning. Is the fact that lightning is so common place, contributing to a complacency about its dangers?

When you consider the fact that safe, effective and affordable protection is available for lightning (unlike other significant weather threats) with proven Standard-compliant lightning protection systems (LPS), it just doesn’t make sense to keep ignoring an obvious threat! Especially when we see scientific reports like those authored by IEEE, NFPA or NOAA. For example, a 2013 IEEE abstract: “Residential Lightning Fires in the USA: An Overview”, cites lightning as responsible for an “estimated 6000 home fires in the U.S. each year; fires that are responsible for loss of life, injury and serious damage or destruction of home dwellings.” This study also points out, that while the “incidence of residential fires from all other causes has fallen dramatically over the past 30 years, lightning fires have increased in number.”

Fast forward to 2017 and what’s changed? Well, in a nutshell, more reports of lightning losses, and more forecasts for increased activity in upcoming years. Unfortunately, something which hasn’t changed is much-needed progress within the building code process to recognize a proven cost benefit analysis of LPS.

So, is it apathy about lightning, or attitudes about lightning protection that need to change? Either way, we can’t prevent lightning from striking. To quote author, Steven King, “Money can’t buy off the lightning.” On the heels of setbacks in recent industry efforts to improve safety and reduce lightning losses through various code processes, this quote may be especially ironic. And perhaps a bit prophetic, too, when you consider reports of record lightning losses for 2017 and scientific predictions for increased activity.

Sometimes, in this world (including in the world of lightning protection), we’re forced to accept the things we cannot change and just let nature take its course. But, whether it be ill-informed building code decisions or the uncanny wrath of Mother Nature, we can’t let obstacles prevent us from working harder and smarter to further the things we can control–things like education, awareness and enlightenment.

It’s called resilience. And you can’t put a price tag on that.

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!

ce academy

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.

The CE Academy has scheduled the following upcoming LSA 101 sessions:
November 16, 2017  –  Boston, MA
December 5, 2017  –  Dallas, TX
December 12, 2017  –  Austin, TX

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:

  1. Participants will gain a general understanding of how lightning protection systems work including the five essential elements of effective lightning protection systems.
  2. 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.
  3. Provide project planners with a general understanding of lightning protection systems.
  4. Make planners aware of the five (5) essential elements of a lightning protection system.
  5. Identify the areas planners should consider when specifying lightning protection systems.
 Discounts are available for early registration, so visit the CE Academy website today for information about events, fees and program agendas.  For more information about the LSA 101 program, visit the Lightning Safety Alliance.

Lightning and Lightning Protection: Measuring the Tolerable Risk

Just last month, a thunderstorm sparked a lightning fire at a senior living complex in Chesapeake, VA, claiming the lives of three residents. Reports of the tragic fire referenced sprinklers and NFPA 13, but unfortunately failed to mention how NFPA 780 lightning protection can help prevent these events from occurring. This senior facility in Richmond, VA, is equipped with LPS–a clear indication that lightning is not a tolerable risk.

When considering lightning protection, architects, engineers, safety professionals and building owners typically rely on the NFPA Risk Assessment methodology to determine the risk of damage due to lightning. The risk assessment guide is found in the “Annex L” section of the NFPA 780 Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems, and provides both an at a glance, simplified assessment and a detailed calculation guide to achieve a more in-depth analysis. The NFPA risk index compares the expected direct strikes to the structure with the occupancy and contents to give an evaluation of whether lightning protection should be applied, or may be considered optional.

Federal agencies, including the Navy, VHA, GSA and USPS also use the NFPA Risk Assessment to evaluate whether or not lightning protection should be installed for both new construction and renovation projects. The NFPA’s Risk Assessment methodology takes into account lightning’s threat and the following factors:

  • The building environment
  • Type of construction
  • Structure occupancy
  • Structure contents
  • Lightning stroke consequences

Once the risk has been determined, deciding on the need for protection measures is much easier. While Risk Assessment methodology is a good rule of thumb, sometimes the presence of a single risk factor is enough to render a structure a significant risk worth protecting. Historic buildings, healthcare facilities, 911 and emergency centers, server farms, industrial plants, schools and churches are often considered to be at high risk in terms of susceptibility to lightning losses. Since a single lightning strike can introduce a chain reaction of destruction, the lightning protection system (LPS) design and installation needs to follow guidelines of NFPA 780 to effectively address all aspects of this complex electrical hazard. Lightning fires can be especially destructive when a strike ignites a structural fire in any of these ways:

  • Through a direct strike
  • In an arc discharge between two conductive objects at different induced potentials
  • By a current surge in circuitry or electrical equipment
  • By an overflow of substantial electrical current, which in turn 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

The design of the LPS must: 1) intercept the lightning flash (provide a preferred strike receptor), 2) conduct the current to earth, 3) dissipate the current into the earth and 4) create equipotential balance to prevent hazardous potential differences between the LPS, structure and its internal systems. When considering all the factors associated with susceptibility, safety, and disruption, the cost of installing lightning protection is often considered minimal as compared to the potential for risk.

Mitigation experts stress that the path to improved community and infrastructure resilience must be “risk-informed and performance-based.” While NFPA codes and standards seek to prevent fires from igniting, “preventing” a force of nature is obviously beyond the role of any code or standard. But in terms of risk reduction and risk management, NFPA 780 is clearly a performance-based mitigation measure for addressing protection for buildings, occupants, contents and operations from lightning fires and losses. The 2017 edition of NFPA has expanded the Lightning Risk Assessment Annex L to include clarifications and revisions that parallel requirements of international lightning protection standards. Risk assessment at the very least, is critical to providing a starting point for mitigation to successfully reduce loss of life and property due to the prevalent lightning threat. If we fail to even consider or assess the threat, how can we effectively begin to lessen the impact of future lightning tragedies?

 

 

 

Is your “shelter” from the storm, a lightning safe place? Reminders about the dangers of tents and thunderstorms.

Tents and lightning can be a lethal combination for outdoor enthusiasts. Knowing when to seek safe or “safer” shelter is an important part of lightning risk reduction during thunderstorm season.

It’s July and it’s hot and humid. The dog days of summer have settled in, and so has lightning. And if you happen to be a camping enthusiast, or a guest at humid outdoor event, odds are that you could find yourself under a tent and in the midst of an approaching thunderstorm. While tents provide shelter from heat, sun and rain, it’s important to remind outdoor enthusiasts that tents and lightning can be a lethal combination. So what do we need to know about tents and lightning safety?

According to John Gookin, PhD and author of National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Lightning, the proper response to lightning can differ, depending on whether or not we find ourselves in a “frontcountry” or “backcountry” environment. Gookin describes frontcountry as “urban, suburban, rural or even distant areas in the countryside that offer shelter from lightning in the form of modern buildings with wiring and plumbing or vehicles with solid metal bodies.” Conversely, backcountry is defined as “any area more than an hour’s travel away from definitive medical care; noting that ‘travel’ in backcountry can often involve hiking, boating or horseback riding.”

Tents are often equipped with aluminum poles which resemble blunt-head LPS air terminals (lightning rods). It’s important to emphasize that these poles do not provide any type of lightning protection or lightning safety for occupants.

If a thunderstorm approaches as you happen to be under a tent in the frontcountry, the safest response is always “when thunder roars, go indoors” or to immediately head for a substantial building or fully-enclosed vehicle and stay there for 30 minutes until the storm. Once the storm has safely passed you can feel safe to resume your outdoor activities or return to the tent setting. As a side-note, it’s important to clarify that tents equipped with aluminum poles which resemble blunt-head LPS air terminals (lightning rods) DO NOT provide any type of lightning protection or lightning safety for occupants.

Unfortunately, tent safety during a thunderstorm in the backcountry can be extremely challenging. If the tent stands higher than nearby objects or is under a tree, you could be at an increased risk of being struck by lightning or suffering exposure to sideflash or ground current—all which can be deadly. When reviewing lightning safety options for tent occupants in the backcountry, NOLS emphasizes the following:

·   Schedule camping excursions in accordance with local weather patterns, avoiding times when thunderstorms are in the forecast.

·  Acquaint yourself with the terrain prior to setting up your tent site and avoid lone trees, wide-open ground and exposed peaks and ridges.

· Seek lower terrain and ravines for tent sites when possible.

· Remember that no place outdoors is safe from lightning when a thunderstorm is overhead! Anticipating the hazard, erring on the side of caution and having a pre-arranged plan of action can greatly reduce your risk of being a lightning victim.  

In his book, Gookin shares 12 case studies involving real life lightning events; including his account of a tragic incident at Colorado’s Lookout Point in September 2007, where a 21 year-old man (John Cowan, an enlisted army soldier in between tours in Iraq), was struck and killed during a weekend hike with three friends. Gookin writes:

Lightning struck Lookout Point near the tent a 6:52 p.m. Cowan’s three companions were standing in the tent at the time; they received only minor injuries and survived the strike. Cowan, however was lying down and killed instantly. The party’s cell phones were disabled by the electricity, so someone ran to the road to get a passerby to call 911. El Paso Country Search and Rescue responded.”

Gookin describes how a NOAA meteorologist visited the scene and found evidence of multiple tears on the floor of the tent, but no other damage. Evidence reviewed at the scene indicated that ground current killed the young victim and an autopsy revealed the presence of electrical wounds on his elbow and buttocks—which suggested that lightning traveled through his torso.

A summary Gookin’s “Lessons Learned” from the tragic event include these takeaways:

· The campers were 100 yards from parked vehicles which potentially could have provided safe shelter.

· The fact that the lone fatality was the person lying down, supports the theory that reducing one’s ground contact, reduces exposure to ground current.      

· When designing locations for campsites, park and recreational planners should consider the lightning hazard and post signage indicating the potential for dangerous thunderstorms, when appropriate.

It’s important to emphasize that most lightning victims are steps away from a safe place. The vast majority of lightning deaths and injuries occur when people don’t act to take shelter, don’t know to take shelter or leave shelter too early. Often, the best plan for lightning risk management involves three key factors: 1) anticipating potentially hazardous weather; 2) maintaining awareness of changing conditions; and 3) knowing when to move to seek safety; or in some circumstances, finding a “safer” place.

Too often, we see individuals hunkering down in unsafe, outdoor “shelters” like tents, cabins, pavilions, porches, canopies and stadium dugouts during thunderstorms–behavior the LSA Team is working to combat by continually emphasizing the importance of finding a lightning safe “place” rather than a “shelter.”

Please help LPI and the National Lightning Safety Council build lightning safe communities by sharing this timely reminder about tents and lightning safety. For more lightning safety and risk reduction resources, visit www.lightningsafetycouncil.org.