Lightning Protection Institute Joins State Fire Marshals in Effort to Reduce Fire Risk Present in Millions of U.S. Homes
Effort calls for improved performance standards for CSST
Maryville, Mo., September 9, 2016 — The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is joining forces with the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) to improve safety measures connected with a fire risk lurking in many homes across the country. The combination of a single lightning strike and the presence of a common gas piping, known as corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST), can pose a serious fire hazard. Fire safety officials believe millions of U.S. homes could be at risk.
Due to its flexible nature and ease of installation, CSST has been widely-used for residential gas service lines since its introduction in the 1990’s. Unfortunately, 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.
“Hazardous outcomes with CSST have already prompted a class action settlement, law suits, a NFPA review and a public awareness campaign,” said Bud VanSickle, LPI executive director. “As a nationwide group dedicated to lightning safety and lightning protection, LPI supports NASFM’s efforts with the codes and standards community to raise the lightning test within the CSST product standard.”
According to NASFM, its recent work with CSST manufacturers and stakeholders in promoting the “Yellow CSST Safety Campaign” has reached over 30 million homeowners. The campaign created safety alerts inserted in utility notices and insurance policyholder communications across the country to educate consumers about bonding and grounding guidelines for CSST; remediation which may not have been addressed when the product was installed. While bonding of the yellow CSST makes homes safer, NASFM is petitioning the codes and standards community for more improvements.
“Raising the ANSI LC1 product standard to require greater immunity of CSST from the lightning threat is imperative for greater safety going forward in new construction,” said Jim Narva, executive director of the NASFM. “We believe LPI’s leadership position in the lightning protection industry can increase awareness and encourage support for improvements to the performance standard for the product.”
“With the advent of a more significant lightning testing protocol (ICC-ES PMG LC1027) and the current technology for products that can meet the enhanced test requirements, CSST’s vulnerability to lightning will be greatly decreased if performance criteria is increased,” said Mitchell Guthrie, former Chair of NFPA 780 and current Chair of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s Technical Committee on Lightning Protection. Guthrie served on the NFPA Standards Council CSST Task Group and on the Fire Protection Research Foundation Project Technical Panel addressing installation methods for CSST gas piping.
“A safer product is available, so there is little justification to the public not to require the enhanced performance criteria in our national standards,” explained Guthrie. “It’s certainly beneficial to have LPI provide technical support to help achieve the goal.”
“As LPI moves forward to support these efforts, it’s important to remind the public that proper bonding and grounding of internal building systems is just one element of a complete lightning protection system,” added VanSickle.
The National Association of State Fire Marshals comprised of senior fire officials in the U.S. and their top deputies. Its primary mission is to protect human life, property and the environment from fire and related hazards. A secondary mission of NASFM is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the State Fire Marshal’s operations. Visit the NASFM website at http://www.firemarshals.org/ for more information.
The Lightning Protection Institute 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 http://lightning.org/ for information about lightning protection system requirements and how to locate a LPI-certified installer in your area. See http://lightning.org/resources/overview-of-csst-lightning-hazard/ for more information about CSST and the lightning risk.
Contact: Kimberly Loehr, LPI/LSA Press office, firstname.lastname@example.org
September 2, 2016 — September is National Preparedness Month and an excellent time to create plans that can safeguard your home or business against Mother Nature’s nastiness. Weather emergencies like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and tornadoes can happen in the middle of the night, when everyone is sleeping, or during the middle of the day when no one is home. The same is true of lightning–and fire evacuations sparked by lightning are more common than you’d expect.
Just this week, lightning sparked a fire at a Pasco County, FL hospital http://wfla.com/2016/08/31/electric-fire-causes-evacuation-of-20-hudson-hospital-patients/ causing the evacuation of over 200 patients who had to be transported to other hospitals. News reports claimed that lightning hit a main power feed on the hospital’s roof and disabled the hospital’s generator.
Last month, in Farmville, VA, over 100 students were evacuated and reassigned to other housing after lightning struck an apartment building http://www.farmvilleherald.com/2016/08/lighting-hits-longwood-apartment-building/ on the Longwood University campus, igniting an eight-alarm fire. The student housing department was forced to scramble to find new accommodations for the students, who had just moved onto campus for the fall semester.
Thunderstorms occur throughout the year and all thunderstorms bring lightning. If a lightning event were to cause an emergency for your home or business, would your family or co-workers know how to get in touch with each other if you are not all together? Before an emergency happens, have a family or company plan in place to determine a point of contact. Ready.gov explains what an emergency communication plan is and how you can prepare one for your family or business: https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan
When it comes to lightning, the best way to prepare your home or business from lightning is to have a lightning protection system professionally installed to safeguard your structure, occupants and equipment against Mother Nature’s nastiness. A lightning protection system includes a network of strike termination devices, conductors, grounding electrodes, interconnecting conductors, surge protective devices and other connectors and required fittings. When properly installed in accordance with national safety standards, the system dissipates the dangerous mega electrical discharge to prevent fire, explosion of nonconductive materials and harmful surge overloads.
We know from experience that homes and businesses prepared for disasters are far more likely to incur less damage and recover quicker than those not prepared. Preparation in all areas of life is always important. So, let’s not let our guard down against lightning. After all, the weather peril experienced by most people, most of the time, in most places of our country, certainly commands our respect now, during National Preparedness Month!
August 18, 2016 — Safety standards are designed to ensure the safety of products, activities or processes. When it comes to lightning protection, the difference between “safe and effective” lightning protection and “unsafe and ineffective” lightning protection is ultimately related to which guidelines are implemented.
Over the years, LPI has shared a lot of information about the NFPA and UL safety standards for lightning protection. Despite the wealth of information shared, we continue to field questions from the public and the media asking for more information and clarification. Sometimes the fundamentals are helpful, so here are the 5 W’s to better acquaint you with NFPA 780, the safety Standard that sets the quality standard for lightning protection design and installation.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) describes itself as, “a global nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.”
As a codes and standards organization, NFPA provides technical information (code and standard documents) designed to minimize the risk and effects of fire. These codes, standards, recommended practices and guides are developed and reviewed through a consensus standards development process, represented by diverse viewpoints and interests. The NFPA’s committee process is accredited the American National Standards Institute.
Often considered the grandfather of lightning protection, NFPA 780 provides valuable resource information for AHJs, project designers, engineers, insurance professionals and anyone responsible for the protection of lives and property from dangers associated with lightning. NFPA also serves as the basis for the LPI-175 Standard of Practice for the Design-Installation-Inspection of Lightning Protection Systems reference document, which is commonly used by LPI-certified designers and installers and LPI-IP inspectors. NFPA 780 covers lightning protection system installation requirements for structures, watercraft, wind turbines, industrial stacks and other special occupancies. Lightning protection guidance for new construction and building trends (including solar systems, arrays, catenary systems, airfield lighting, rooftop equipment) are also addressed, with new information and sections added to the Standard in conjunction with the three-year review process. Information added to the 2017 edition of NFPA 780 to address new safety challenges includes:
- Occupancy-specific safety, design and protection protocol
- Updated information for hazardous, combustible and explosive conditions
- Revisions to address protection for structures containing flammable vapors, gases or liquids.
- Revisions to assist facility managers, installers, inspectors and AHJ’s with on-site inspections and periodic maintenance.
- New definitions for commonly misunderstood and miscommunicated lightning protection terms.
- Updated illustrations for the placement of lightning protection components.
- New bonding requirements for metal bodies.
- New Annex sections (there are now 15 in total in the 2017 edition) added to address additional new building technologies (protection of smart structures and SPD guidance for the selection of SPD’s for photovoltaic installations.)
The NFPA first adopted “Specifications for Protection of Buildings Against Lightning” in 1905. Revised editions of the early code (and subsequent standard) continued to be adopted by NFPA throughout the century. In 1992 the numerical designation of the document was changed from “78 “to “780” and the name “Lightning Protection Code” was revised to “Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems” to conform with the NFPA’s routine method of naming documents. Since NFPA 780 contains installation requirements, it is more appropriately termed an installation “standard” rather than a “code.”
NFPA 780 is the principle lightning protection Standard in the U.S. and a primary implementing document for the IEC 62305 (International Electrotechnical Commission) series of documents. NFPA 780 also provides the foundation for numerous specialized lightning protection documents for organizations such as the DOD, DOE, NASA and the FAA. Prior to the development of the IEC series, NFPA 780 was routinely referenced and used worldwide.
The 2017 Edition of NFPA 780, prepared by Technical Committee on Lightning Protection was issued by the Standards Council and approved as an American National Standard on June 2, 2016. The new document can be viewed free online at: http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards?mode=code&code=780
NFPA 780 is also available for purchase at: http://lightning.org/downloads/nfpa-780-standard-2017-edition/
Curious about the How? Contact a LPI-certified specialist: http://lightning.org/membership/membership-directory/ to learn how a NFPA 780-compliant lightning protection system can help protect your home or business.
Note: As part of its mission to promote fire safety, the NFPA also develops a variety of educational programs, tools, and resources for all ages and audiences. Visit the NFPA website at http://www.nfpa.org/ for more information.
What: 2016 National Weather Association Teacher’s Weather Workshop
Where: Norfolk Waterside Marriott, 235 E. Main Street, Norfolk, VA
When: Tuesday, September 13 2016, 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Overview: The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) will join partners from the National Weather Association (NWA) at their 2016 Annual Meeting to participate in a hands-on workshop to educate teachers (K-12) about lightning, lightning protection, lightning safety and LPI-related resources. LPI Communications Director, Kim Loehr will share information about the Building Lightning Safe Communities initiative and explain LPI’s role in the National Lightning Safety Awareness campaign effort. For more information about NWA or the upcoming workshop, visit http://www.nwas.org/
LPI Debunks Common Myths in Support of Lightning Safety Awareness Week
MARYVILLE, Mo., June 19, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — As new and old myths about lightning continue to circulate through the internet and social media, it’s hard to know how to separate fact from fallacy about lightning safety and protection measures. In support of Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 19-25, the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is emphasizing the importance of protecting people, property and places against lightning, a deadly, yet often underrated weather threat.
“A general misunderstanding of lightning protection combined with an internet increase of unscrupulous vendors pitching false claims about new lightning prevention devices has created a recipe for a lot of consumer confusion,” said Bud VanSickle, LPI executive director.
To increase awareness about the dangers of lightning and provide the public with safety information, the National Weather Service (NWS) launched National Lightning Safety Awareness Week in 2001 http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov
“Despite the wealth of accurate information on lightning and lightning safety, there are still many myths and misunderstandings that persist,” said John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist for NOAA/NWS.
Just in time for Lightning Safety Awareness Week, LPI separates fallacy from fact to debunk a few common myths about lightning safety and lightning protection:
Fallacy: Rubber tires and rubber-soled shoes protect you from being struck by lightning.
Fact: Rubber tires and rubber soles provide NO protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, the steel shell and frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal. (Lightning’s electricity travels along the metal shell and frame and into the ground.)
Fallacy: Metal attracts lightning so you shouldn’t wear metal or hold a cell phone in a thunderstorm.
Fact: While metal conducts lightning’s electricity, it doesn’t attract it, so the presence of metal makes no difference regarding where or when lightning strikes. People are struck by lightning because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time—anywhere outside is unsafe during a thunderstorm. Holding a golf club or cell phone does not increase one’s risk for being struck, which is why the NWS advises: “When thunder roars, go indoors!”
Fallacy: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, and structures like the Empire State Building and Willis (Sears) Tower are zapped numerous times a year. The earth experiences 100 lightning flashes per second and the U.S. alone has more than 40 million lightning strikes each year. Thunderstorms occur virtually everywhere, putting people and structures at risk http://lightning.org/learn-more/watch-learn/#video-1 Lightning strikes in low lying areas, as well as in higher elevations which is why lightning is considered the weather hazard “most commonly experienced by most people in the world.”
Fallacy: Lightning rods are outdated and a thing of the past.
Fact: Lightning protection systems are installed more today than ever before. Smart structures that feature a high degree of automation and interconnected systems and rely on sophisticated energy collection methods can be at special risk. Lightning can initiate a domino effect path of transient overvoltage which can disrupt, degrade and damage multiple electronic systems and connected equipment. With the growth of sustainable energy technology and eco-friendly building prompting upgrades and improvements to the electrical infrastructure of today’s homes and buildings, lightning protection is increasingly relevant and important.
Fallacy: A whole-house surge arrester can provide adequate protection against lightning.
Fact: Surge protection is only one element of a complete lightning protection system. A single bolt of lightning can generate up to 200 kA of electrical energy, spelling disastrous consequences for an unprotected structure. No surge protection device or “whole-house” arrester alone can protect a structure from a direct strike, which is why a grounding network for lightning (lightning protection system) must be implemented along with surge protection to provide a safe, conductive path to discharge lightning’s electricity.
Fallacy: Lightning protection is simple and easy to install yourself.
Fact: Lightning protection system design and installation is complex and not a do-it-yourself project. Installation is not typically within the scope of expertise held by general contractors, roofers or even electricians–which is why the work is typically subcontracted out to specialists. LPI-certified experts who specialize in lightning protection and utilize UL-listed components and equipment should be hired to design and install these systems to make sure materials and methods comply with national Safety Standards.
The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), whose mission is to improve the public understanding of insurance–what it does and how it works–offers consumers guidelines for hiring a qualified lightning protection provider: http://www.iii.org/video/how-pick-lightning-protection-system
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 http://www.lightning.org for more information.
More information about the 2016 Lightning Safety Awareness Week campaign is available at http://www.lightningsafetycouncil.org
CONTACT: Kim Loehr, LSA/LPI Communications Office, email@example.com
Consumer Alert: Homeowners Warned about the Dangers of Shoddy Lightning Protection System Installations
Be sure your lightning protection complies with nationally-recognized safety standards!
June 14, 2016 — In the aftermath of last week’s devastating home fire in Parker, Colorado, The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is warning homeowners about the dangers of shoddy lightning protection, while providing insight into what can happen when these systems don’t comply with national safety standards. An LPI field investigation which surveyed remnants of the 70 ft. home’s lightning protection system revealed numerous safety standard violations. (Compliance with lightning protection safety standards, helps ensure quality control for installation materials and methods.) The field investigation of the Parker home cited safety violations including:
- Metal flue stacks completely unprotected. (This is a bonding violation for lightning protection systems.)
- Aluminum conductor was incorrectly connected to grounding termination with no transition (required) above grade and conductor downleads (only two found) were incorrectly installed on the front of the home, rather than on opposing corners of the structure as mandated by installation safety standard requirements.
- Spacing of ground terminals did not comply with minimum distance and soil depth requirements. (Ground rods were right next to the foundation and above grade.)
- Utilities were not interconnected to the lightning protection system. (Lightning Protection Safety Standards call for common bonding of grounded systems.)
- Surge protection device/s (SPD) were not found to be installed on the incoming electric service.
LPI reminds homeowners that good lightning protection begins with materials and installation methods that comply with national safety standards of LPI-175, NFPA 780 and UL-96A. A reputable lightning protection installer will also provide options for a third-party quality assurance inspection of the system.
LPI offers these tips to help consumers eliminate the bad and the ugly when hiring a lightning protection specialist:
- Be sure the contractor is listed with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and holds certification with LPI. (It’s always a good idea to ask for UL-listing number and evidence of LPI credentials.)
- Ask for a written proposal and/or design detailing the job to be performed prior to agreeing to have any work performed. Check to be sure materials and methods will comply with U.S. Safety Standards for Lightning Protection Systems such as LPI-175, NFPA 780 and UL96/96A. (Make sure your contractor can cite these standards.)
- Check for industry affiliations with groups such as LPI, LSA, NFPA, UL and ULPA which are trusted trade organizations for lightning protection. Experience counts, so be wary of start-up companies or contractors offering a “price deal” to install, fix or repair lightning protection.
- Check references to find out if your contractor has experience working on high-profile projects i.e. historic structures, slate roofs, trees, etc.
- Ask for maintenance and close-out materials upon completion of the work. NFPA 780 stresses the importance of maintenance for lightning protection systems, citing: “Recommended guidelines for the maintenance of the lightning protection system should be provided to the owner at the completion of the installation.”
- NFPA also recommends regular periodic inspections and annual visual inspections to assess the effectiveness of the lightning protection system—especially important whenever alterations or repairs are made to the protected structure.
- Walk away from high-pressure sellers who tell you that you must make a decision right away. When in doubt, contact bbb.orgto locate your local Better Business Bureau to obtain a reliability report for a contractor before you hire.
Lightning protection installation is a specialty discipline, so homeowners should not assume that roofers, general contractors or electricians are qualified to install lightning protection systems. If your home is equipped with corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST gas piping), you will also want to review applicable industry bonding and grounding recommendations with your lightning protection contractor.
Finally, homeowners concerned about quality control can contact www.lpi-ip.com for affordable inspection options, as a third-party inspection of the lightning protection system can provide peace of mind and help ensure proper installation.
For more information on lightning protection or to obtain a list of certified contractors, visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org.
May 24, 2016 — There’s a saying that goes, “An architect’s dream is an engineer’s nightmare.”
While A&E visions may sometimes seem to be at odds, both converged last week in Philadelphia to construct the architecture and design event of the year, known as AIA Convention & Expo. Dubbed the expo where attendees can discover what’s “new, next and cutting-edge,” this year’s #AIACon16 featured everything from building systems to software—and yes, lightning protection was there, too.
Recognizing the importance of disaster mitigation for the architect and engineering communities, the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is gearing up to launch a first-ever email newsletter to provide a new tool for A&E toolkits. The “Build & Protect” newsletter will feature up-to-date news about the science of lightning protection, industry trends and technical information regarding how safety standard-compliant systems can benefit the building environment. Written specifically for the A&E community, the newsletter will provide unique content related to lightning protection system design, specification, inspection, quality assurance and maintenance.
It’s highly fitting for the world of lightning protection that AIACon16 fell during Building Safety Month http://www.iccsafe.org/about-icc/building-safety-month/week-three/. It’s also interesting that last week’s campaign’s theme: “Learn from the Past, Build for Tomorrow,” echos the resiliency benefits that lightning protection systems provide.
Although an underrated and misunderstood threat, lightning hits the earth over 100 times a second which explains why the insurance industry cites this destructive weather peril as responsible for more than a billion dollars annually in damage to buildings, here in the U.S.
In the spirit of “Learn from the Past, Build for the Future,” today’s designers are readily including upgrades to increase building resiliency from weather disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and most recently, lightning. With the growth in automated technology, lightning protection has become increasingly more important for inclusion in green building, LEED and the smart structure design-build process.
Keeping pace with sustainable energy technology and building trends, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has added new technical provisions to the upcoming edition of the NFPA 780 Safety Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/document-information-pages?mode=code&code=780 Included among the NFPA updates, are provisions to address applications for smart structures and their interconnected systems, which can be especially vulnerable to power surge failures sparked by lightning.
Safety standard-compliant lightning protection systems provide the best possible quality in materials and installation practices to ensure maximum resiliency against a serious weather threat. A&E’s seeking to keep pace with lightning protection trends designed to help fortify their building dreams and nightmares, will want to subscribe to LPI’s upcoming Build & Protect newsletter.
Building Safety Month reminds us that learning from the past means building for the future. Let’s in turn remind A&E’s that safer design means safer places for work, rest and play. LPI has the tools to help A&E’s build lightning safe communities!
Visitors to Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Convention Center on May 19-21 Can Sign Up For It
PHILADELPHIA, PA –May 17, 2016– The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is launching its first-ever email newsletter for architectural and engineering professionals.
LPI’s Build & Protect newsletter will feature news about the science of lightning protection, industry trends and technical information regarding how safety standard-compliant systems can benefit buildings, according to LPI.
“The Build & Protect newsletter is written specifically for the architect and engineering community to provide unique content related to lightning protection system design, specification and quality assurance,” said Bud VanSickle, LPI executive director.
Architects, engineers and designers are invited to visit LPI (booth #1546) at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Expo & Convention #AIACon16 in Philadelphia on May 19-21 to sign-up for the Build & Protect newsletter and to learn more about lightning protection. A&E’s can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
While often an underrated threat, lightning is a deadly and destructive weather peril, responsible for more than $1 billion annually in damage to buildings in the U.S.
“Make no mistake, lightning plays a substantial role in the damage done to homes and businesses every year,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president, public affairs and consumer spokesperson with the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) “Many losses can be prevented when lightning protection systems and surge protection are implemented in the design-build process.”
“A single lightning strike can generate up to 200 kA of electrical energy, making lightning protection increasingly important for inclusion in green building and the smart structure design process,” added VanSickle. “With the Build & Protect newsletter, LPI can provide an invaluable resource and equip architects and designers with relevant content on how to protect their structures from the lightning hazard—even before they are built.”
“It is important to include a lightning protection system when building a new structure, embarking on renovations and when rebuilding after a disaster,” adds Salvatore.
About the Lightning Protection Institute
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 http://lightning.org for more information.
About the Insurance Information Institute
The I.I.I. is a non-profit communications and research organization supported by the property/casualty insurance industry. Visit the I.I.I. website at www.iii.org
Let’s Talk about Tending to the Trees. Earth Day reminder that lightning protection helps keep trees healthy & green!
“They are beautiful in their peace, they are wise in their silence. They will stand after we are dust. They teach us, and we tend them.”
– Galeain ip Altiem MacDunelmor
April 22, 2016 — Today is officially “Earth Day” and this year’s global theme is “Trees for the Earth.” Which prompts an important question: Are you tending to your trees?
Even if you aren’t a full-fledged tree-hugger, you probably know that lightning is nature’s most frequent peril and hence a tree’s most-feared predator. Lightning damages and kills more trees than we can account for in the U.S. A single bolt of lightning can carry 100 million volts of electricity, so unless a tree is equipped with a lightning protection system, it can be extremely vulnerable to the common weather hazard. Lightning can injure the tree from a direct hit or side flash (lightning jumping from a nearby object), and problems can vary from light limb damage, to total annihilation.
Lightning’s electrical charge can boil the liquid sap, causing natural gases in the tree to expand, which in turn cause the phloem (bark) to split open or the tree to literally explode. Lightning’s current utilizes the high resistance wood as a conductor, causing massive damage as it transverses tree components on its way to ground. In some instances, the only evidence of a lightning strike may be the internal browning of the xylem (water-conducting woody tissue), which causes a gradual decay of the tree.
In honor of Earth Day 2016, LPI is re-posting these commonly-asked questions about trees, lightning and lightning protection:
Q. Are there risk factors or conditions that apply regarding a tree’s vulnerability to lightning?
A. Geographic location, species/type of tree and height are factors that may apply. According to agricultural specialists, lightning is most likely to strike trees under these conditions:
- lone trees
- tallest trees in a group or tallest tree at the end of a group of trees
- trees growing in moist soil or close to a body of water
- trees closest to a building or structure
Q. Are some trees more vulnerable to lightning than others?
A. Trees most vulnerable to lightning (those with high starch content) include: maple, ash, poplar, pine, oak, hemlock, elm and sycamore. Large oak trees are often vulnerable due to their size or prominence. Trees less vulnerable (those with high oil content) include: birch, beech and chestnut.
Q. Why should property owners consider lightning protection for trees?
A. Any trees that are valued for landscaping, sentimental or historical reasons should be protected, including those trees which add aesthetic value to the property.
Q. How does a lightning protection system protect a tree from damage?
A. A copper cable and grounding system is used to intercept lightning’s harmful electricity and conduct it safely underground and away from the tree, so that no damage occurs to the wood or the roots. The principle employed for tree lightning protection (in accordance with National Safety Standards of LPI-175, NFPA 780 and UL-96A), is the same used to protect structures, homes and buildings.
Q. Does the tree lightning protection system also provide protection for nearby structures on the property?
A. No. The system provides protection for the tree only. Separate lightning protection systems should be considered to protect structures on the property.
Q. What kind of maintenance is needed for a tree lightning protection system?
A. An annual visual check of the tree should be made by the property owner or maintenance manager to ensure all elements of the system remain connected and in place. Occasionally, additional cable runs, air terminals or grounding components may need to be added to accommodate tree growth. It’s also important to check lightning protection cables at the base of the tree to ensure no system interruption or damage has occurred from weed trimming, lawnmowers, or ground excavation.
Q. Who can install the lightning protection system?
A. Be sure to contact a UL-listed, LPI-certified lightning protection specialist or a qualified arborist to ensure your system is installed in accordance with national safety standards.
In most situations, a tree struck by lightning will continue to decline over time and eventually require removal. Most trees succumb to disease or death more quickly if the lightning strike passes completely through the trunk (streaks of splintered bark are typically visible on both sides of the tree when this occurs). Typically, property owners will notice signs of decay within two weeks of a lightning strike. Since few trees survive a direct lightning strike, it may be good insurance for property owners to consider lightning protection for vulnerable trees, specimen trees, historic trees or trees over public shelters.
So in the spirit of Earth Day 2016, “let’s get planting!” And, if you want to keep your trees healthy for years to come, don’t forget the lightning protection. Think of your lightning protection system as the hug that keeps on giving, to keep your tree “green” and living!