Weather-Ready Ambassadors Can be a “Force of Nature” for Lightning Preparedness!

lightningheadlinespicMarch 2015 marks the one-year anniversary of the NOAA Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) Ambassador initiative and more than 1,300 Ambassadors have shared stories of how they’re helping to build a weather-ready nation. The WRN Ambassador initiative is NOAA’s effort to recognize partners who are working to improve the nation’s “readiness, responsiveness, and overall resilience against extreme weather, water and climate events.”

LPI was happy to weigh-in to share industry success stories about our lightning protection and lightning safety initiatives. And we were happy to see links to our success stories included in a recent WRN Newsletter that shared updates about our “Building Lightning Safe Communities” efforts.

LPI’s commitment as a WRN Ambassador means that we are working hard to improve resilience against the lightning threat–which is often underrated in terms of severe weather concerns. The WRN initiative asks its Ambassadors to assist in minimizing the effects of natural disasters by taking the following actions:

* Promote WRN messages and themes to stakeholders
* Engage with NOAA personnel on potential collaboration opportunities
* Share success stories of preparedness and resiliency
* Serve as an example by educating re: preparedness
* Serve as a “change agent and leader” in the community

LPI will be heeding the WRN call to action next week at its 83rd Annual Lightning Protection Conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville. Industry members will participate in educational programs, speaker presentations and moderated breakout sessions that will provide professional enrichment and many, many opportunities for collaboration. Attendees will hear and see examples of lightning protection case studies, partner reports, important scientific findings and evidence of how LPI’s “Building Lightning Safe Communities” initiative is making a difference to improve lightning safety and reduce lightning losses in communities across the nation.

Unlike other weather perils, lightning knows few geographic boundaries and is a leading storm-related hazard responsible for too many unnecessary deaths and injuries and an excess of preventable property losses. The 83rd Annual LPI/ULPA Lightning Protection Conference will provide a forum for attendees to learn how they can Be a Force of Nature by understanding the lightning risk, taking action, spreading education and serving as an Ambassador example!

So let’s get ready to be a force in Nashville!
Y’all ready for this?

Weather Gone Wild! Is Thundersnow (and Lightning) Making Your Winter More Frightening?

thundersnowFebruary 16, 2015 – It’s estimated that lightning strikes the United States over 20 million times each year. Given this amount of lightning activity, shouldn’t we expect to see a little lightning and thunder in the dead of winter? Interestingly enough, weather reports across the country have tallied quite a few incidents of “thundersnow” (a rare weather phenomenon that brings the unusual combination of thunder, lightning and snow) this winter. While hype about the phenomenon seems to be on the rise, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), thundersnow is so rare that it only occurs in less than one percent of observed snowstorms.

“Clouds are low in the winter so you don’t get that upward vertical motion that you get with your warm sector of thunder storms in the summer. It’s rare to have thunder and lightning in the winter. It usually means it’s a strong intense winter storm or a blizzard,” explained Kate Mantych, WDTV 5 News Meteorologist.

So what causes this weather phenomenon? The NWS explains that thundersnow occurs when lightning forms after an electric charge separation process in updrafts and downdrafts created inside a convective system. Enhanced air instability, a quick temperature change from surface to cloud, or a charge separation process can all trigger lightning and the ensuing thundersnow.

Since thundersnow is similar to a typical thunderstorm, it’s important to enlist the same safety precautions for spring and summer weather events. Staying indoors and away from trees still applies during thundersnow. Lightning occurring during thundersnow has been known to zap trees, homes, buildings and traffic lights and wide-spread power outages are not uncommon in these storms.  Restoration and repair of power lines in severe winter weather can be especially tricky when heavy snows impact travel and road accessibility. Thunderstorm conditions during winter storms can be harder to predict, as well. And while the average bolt of lightning can carry 100 million volts of electrical power, it’s virtually impossible to predict when and where lightning will hit and what its target will be. Lightning can strike miles ahead of a parent thunderstorm and linger several minutes after a storm leaves a specific area—which is why the NWS dubs lightning as “the first thunderstorm hazard to arrive and the last to leave.”

So just what is all of this lightning doing to our homes and buildings?  Well, here are a few scary statistics.

Each year, lightning fires are responsible for an estimated:

$450 million in home property damage

$108 million in non-residential property damage

$28 million in damages to storage facilities

$22 million in damages to places of assembly (churches and houses of worship)

$19 million in damages to hotels and motels

$15 million in mercantile and business properties (offices, shops and department stores)

$15 million in industrial and manufacturing facilities

$3 million in miscellaneous properties

(Source: National Fire Protection Association NFPA)

Lightning is an unpredictable weather threat, but mitigation doesn’t have to be hit or miss. The highly conductive materials used in a lightning protection system provide a low resistance path and grounding network to safely dissipate lightning’s dangerous electricity. When a lightning protection network is installed in accordance with national safety standards, lightning’s harmful electricity is intercepted and directed to ground without impact to the structure, occupants or contents. So whether the threat strikes in spring, summer, fall or even winter, lightning protection systems can safeguard vulnerable structures against nature’s underrated fire risk. Think of lightning protection as an insurance policy that provides an ounce of prevention against weather gone wild.

Lightning Protection for Storage Facilities Eliminates the “What if?”

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Lightning protection systems can be installed for large and small storage facilities, both during and after construction to safeguard structures and contents against surges, fire and explosions.

Lightning protection systems can be installed for large and small storage facilities, both during and after construction to safeguard structures and contents against surges, fire and explosions.

November 17, 2014 – What if you lost your valuables in a fire where no one was around for miles to report evidence of smoke or a blaze? Each year, millions of structures are damaged or destroyed by lightning.  While all types of structures should evaluate their lightning risk, storage buildings and facilities containing flammable substances and fire-susceptible materials can pose special concerns. Lightning strikes to these structures can ignite flammable vapors, resulting in a large-scale fires or explosions—losses that can be prevented when proper precautions for lightning protection are employed. With reports of lightning incidents at storage facilities and portable structures on the rise, insurance providers are taking a closer look at lightning protection options for these structures.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), lightning strikes cost nearly $1 billion in insured loses in 2012.  The I.I.I. puts the average lightning paid-claim at $6,400 in 2012, up 25 percent from 2011. I.I.I. reports state that damage caused by lightning, such as a fire, is covered by standard homeowners and business insurance policies. According to I.I.I. there is also coverage for lightning damage under the comprehensive portion of an auto policy. However, not all policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of lightning striking a structure—which is why property owners should check with their insurance provider for coverage specifics related to lightning.

Fires caused by lightning represent a serious threat, but the risk is often overlooked by property owners.  A single bolt of lightning can generate up to 200 kA of energy, which can spark fires, damage roofing or cause surging through electrical circuitry.  A lightning strike to an unprotected structure or storage facility can cause catastrophic damage to the building and its contents.  Fortunately, there are relatively simple and inexpensive measures that can be taken to substantially reduce the chances of lightning-related damage.  Most types of storage structures are susceptible to lightning damage. According to the National Weather Service, there are three main ways that lightning enters buildings: 1) a direct strike, 2) through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure, and 3) through the ground. Lightning can also travel through structural steel framing and reinforcing rods in concrete walls or flooring. On the outside of the structure, lightning can travel along the outer shell and may follow conductive metal vents, roof drainage elements and external supports as it seeks a path to ground.  None of these building elements are designed to carry lightning without incurring damage.   

Property owners needn’t play the odds or risk losing their valued possessions to lightning.  A professionally-installed lightning protection system which meets U.S. safety standards of LPI, NFPA and UL will prevent damage and impact to a self-storage facility by providing a safe, low-resistance path into the earth for lightning’s electrical energy.

Lightning protection is one of the least expensive security measures you can purchase for your structures and storage facilities, yet it offers the best type of insurance—peace of mind to protect your property and valuables. If you don’t want to play the lightning odds, consider a lightning protection system. And if you do opt for lightning protection, don’t forget to contact your insurance provider to check your eligibility for base rate credits or discounts for having the system installed.

It’s Fire Prevention Week & Time to Remind Homeowners about Lightning; the Forgotten Fire Threat!

LPI began the "Building Lightning Safe Communities" initiative several years ago in Texas with Bonded Lightning Protection Co. LPI's new PSA features a fire chief as the "face" of its lightning safety campaign.

LPI began the “Building Lightning Safe Communities” initiative several years ago in Texas with Bonded Lightning Protection Co. LPI’s new PSA features a fire chief as the “face” of its lightning safety campaign.

October 8, 2014 – The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has sponsored Fire Prevention Week since 1922, which is believed to be the longest running public health and safety observance on record. Since 1922, the country has seen huge progress in the fire safety movement with the construction of fire-resistant buildings and improvements in fire suppression techniques. Unfortunately, fire still poses a significant threat to homeowners, as evident by these recently reported statistics from NFPA:

* A fire department in the U.S. responds to a fire every 25 seconds
* A residential fire occurs every 85 seconds
* Home fires account for $7 billion in property loss

But did you know that lightning poses a significant fire threat to homeowners, too? Lightning is an underrated and often forgotten fire threat, even though the most powerful electrical surges are caused by lightning. A typical lightning strike can pack up to 200 kA of electric energy (100 million volts of power), so it’s no surprise that a strike to an unprotected structure can pack a mean punch that can cost a homeowner thousands of dollars in repairs. According to a 2013 NFPA report, titled “Lightning Fires and Lightning Strikes,” fire departments in the U.S. respond to an estimated 22,600 lightning fires each year. These fires are responsible for civilian and firefighter deaths, injuries and approximately $451 in preventable property damage. If you Google the words, “lightning and fire” you’ll see news reports of these lightning incidents throughout the country.

Fortunately, a lightning protection system can provide a grounding network to protect a structure from these deadly fires, which is why lightning protection is meeting the needs of safety, technology and design. National safety standards for lightning protection (LPI 175, NFPA 780 and UL-96A) specify tested and effective 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 connectors, fittings or bonding for CSST gas piping may be required and surge protection devices for vulnerable appliances may be needed, as well.

LPI recognizes the NFPA 780 Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems as the most comprehensive resource for reducing lightning risks. The Standard includes 12 chapters and 14 annex sections to provide a thorough overview of design requirements and applications for lightning protection systems.

Fire Prevention Week is also the perfect time to remind folks about LPI’s newly released public service announcement which spotlights the severity of lightning’s destruction and promotes protection resources in conjunction with the Building Lightning Safe Communities campaign. Appropriately, the PSA features a fire chief as the expert “voice” to promote the campaign safety message. To view the PSA click here http://lightning.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/LSAW-PSA-v2.mp4

More information about fire safety and NFPA’s annual campaign is available at www.firepreventionweek.org.

This October, help LPI build lightning safe communities! Visit http://www.lightningsafe.org/partnerships.html to learn how you can make a difference!

September is National Preparedness Month and Time to Get Storm Smart about Lightning!

The lightning protection system on this vacation river home provides year-round security and peace of mind against a frequently-experienced weather hazard.

The lightning protection system on this vacation river home provides year-round security and peace of mind against a frequently-experienced weather hazard.

September 10, 2014 – September is National Preparedness Month (NPM) and the perfect time to sharpen your storm survival skills. Knowing what to do before the storm hits is often the most important step you can take in protecting your family, property and community.

The fall months are typically prime time for weather disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and thunderstorms. Since tornadoes are spawned by thunderstorms, they are often accompanied by intense lightning that can strike before, during and/or after a tornado passes. While lightning is not a normal occurrence in hurricanes, thunderstorms have been known to occur in the areas of highest vertical convection within the hurricane eye wall. Temperature swings that create extreme differences between cold and warm air can create especially severe thunderstorms in the autumn months. In turn, these storms can pose significant problems for homeowners in terms of heavy winds, downed trees, electrical surges and lightning fires.

Irrigation systems and security systems, invisible pet fences, computers and sensitive home electronics and generators are home amenities that can be especially vulnerable to lightning. An indirect or secondary lightning strike to a nearby tree or power line can also induce unwanted surges into a home. A direct lightning strike can carry over 100 million volts of electricity and generate heat in excess of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit which can rip through roofs, explode brick and concrete, and ignite fires.

The best way to prepare your home from lightning is to have a lightning protection system professionally installed. A properly installed lightning protection system will dissipate the dangerous electrical charge, taking it safely to ground, keeping the home and its occupants unharmed.

Lightning protection systems dissipate lightning’s harmful electricity through the following:

• strike termination network (rods or air terminals on the roof)
• down conductor network (cables or downleads)
• grounding electrode network (ground rods, ground ring or ground plates)
• equipotential bonding network (joining of components to ensure conductivity)
• surge protection (SPD’s installed at electrical panels and in-house electronics)

As always, LPI stresses the importance of contracting with a qualified LPI-certified and UL-listed lightning protection specialist to ensure that materials and methods of installation comply with recognized safety standards of LPI-175, NFPA 780 and UL 96A. Lightning protection installation is not a “do-it-yourself” project, so homeowners should never attempt to do this work themselves. Improper installation can lead to dangerous consequences.

Benjamin Franklin, the inventor of lightning protection once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” National Preparedness Month is a good time to examine your “prevention” checklist to best prepare your family, home and property for natural disasters; especially lightning–the weather hazard experienced by most people most of the time in the U.S.

Information about National Preparedness Month and the “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare” campaign is available at http://www.ready.gov/september

Lightning Protection: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Ugly lightning protection is often characterized by sloppy and careless installation.

“Ugly” lightning protection is often characterized by sloppy and careless installation.

Good lightning protection installation is neat and inconspicuous and follows safety standards for materials and methods without compromising aesthetics.

“Good” lightning protection installation is neat and inconspicuous and follows safety standards for materials and methods without compromising aesthetics.

August 19, 2014 – The provocative title from the classic western starring Clint Eastwood just might reflect a theme that’s become all too common in the world of construction; and sometimes seen in the world of lightning protection, too.  How does a consumer separate the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to lightning protection? Here are a few thoughts on the topic:

The Good

Good lightning protection begins with a specification that calls for materials and methods in compliance with national safety standards of LPI-175, NFPA 780 and UL-96A. The installing company should also be listed with UL, and its contractors trained specifically in lightning protection.  LPI certification denoting, Journeyman, Master Installer, and/or Master Installer/Designer classification is important, as well. Company references and membership affiliation with industry organizations such as: the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), the Lightning Safety Alliance (LSA), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the United Lightning Protection Association are also evidence of a “good” installing company. This type of company should have the professional experience to advise the customer and serve as an industry authority to ensure neat, aesthetically-pleasing and standard-compliant workmanship. The good lightning protection installer will also provide options and make arrangements for a third-party quality assurance inspection of the system.

The Bad

Most trades have their share of vendors who will sell, misrepresent or promise anything in pursuit of the all-mighty dollar. Unfortunately, the same can be said for lightning protection. Practices in the “bad” category range from use of unconventional and non-standard compliant products (some call these “gadgets”), to companies that make slick guarantees in proposals and marketing materials. Here are some tricks of the trade in the bad category:

• Use of lightning protection products or methods that don’t comply with nationally recognized U.S. Safety Standards of NFPA 780 and UL-96/A.
• Use of materials or methods not supported by independent scientists.
• Systems not eligible for a third-party inspection: UL Master Label, Letter of Findings or LPI-IP Master Installation, etc.
• Systems that don’t meet U.S. military standards and are not allowed for use on government projects.
• Vendors who make promises, claims and guarantees re: warranties and lightning quick delivery of third-party inspection certifications and close-out materials.

The Ugly

This category is a little trickier, and the “ugly” may be harder to spot to the untrained eye.  Evidence of the ugly is often seen in sloppy work, little attention to aesthetics and shortcuts in workmanship.  In terms of system installation, ugly often includes:

  • Dangling conductor cable that hasn’t been clipped securely to a structure or hangs loose from one roof level to another.
  • Strike termination devices (air terminals or rods) that are installed lopsided on the roof.
  • Use of aluminum materials when copper is compatible and is more pleasing to the aesthetics of the structure (or vice versa).
  • Down conductors or cable that is carelessly routed throughout a structure without attention to neatness or without regard to concealment.
  • Use of unsightly “flathead” or overly ornamental strike termination devices instead of inconspicuous and industry-standard blunt tip or tapered tip rods.

The Cure

The experienced, LPI-certified lightning protection professional will know how to guide the customer through the specification, design and installation process to ensure safety without compromising aesthetics. Here are some tips to help consumers eliminate the bad and the ugly when hiring a lightning protection specialist:

• Be sure contractors are listed with UL and hold certification with LPI.
• Installation is a specialty discipline; do not assume that roofers, general contractors or electricians are qualified to install lightning protection systems.
• All materials and methods should comply with U.S. Safety Standards.
• Check references to find out if your contractor has experience working on high-profile projects or experience comparable to your project i.e. historic structures, slate roofs, trees, etc.
• If you have CSST gas piping, ask about industry bonding and grounding requirements.
• Check for industry affiliations with groups such as LPI, LSA, NFPA, UL and ULPA which are trusted trade organizations for lightning protection.
• Ask for a written proposal and/or design detailing the work to be performed.
• Ask for a third-party inspection and request to be present during such.
• Ask for maintenance and close-out materials upon completion of the work.