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!
In each one day event, the CE Academy provides 4-8 hours of AIA-registered CE courses, including breakfast and lunch! For your convenience, the CE Academy also issues certificates of completion and reports AIA credits for every event. The LSA 101 Lightning Protection session is a one-hour course which includes a review of proper lightning protection system design and application as conforming with NFPA and UL lightning protection requirements. LSA 101 participants receive (1) AIA HSW /LU credit.
LSA 101 providers have have extensive knowledge of lightning protection methods and are actively involved in the lightning protection industry and its trade associations. Learning Objectives of the LSA 101 course include:
- Participants will gain a general understanding of how lightning protection systems work including the five essential elements of effective lightning protection systems.
- At the end of the program participants will be aware of the considerations that should be made during project planning to specify effective, attractive and low-maintenance lightning protection systems for all types of structures.
- Provide project planners with a general understanding of lightning protection systems.
- Make planners aware of the five (5) essential elements of a lightning protection system.
- Identify the areas planners should consider when specifying lightning protection systems.
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.
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.”
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.
It’s Lightning Safety Awareness Week! Are You #LightningSmart?
Sunday: An Introduction to Lightning and Lightning Safety
Monday: The Science of Lightning and Thunder
Tuesday: Lightning Safety Outdoors
Wednesday: Lightning Safety Indoors
Thursday: Lightning Safety and Sports Activities
Friday: Medical Effects on Lightning Victims
Saturday: Protecting Your Home from Lightning
Lightning Wreaking Havoc on Your Home? Get Grounded!
- 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 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
A professionally-installed LPS can immediately ground lightning to protect life and property against a leading weather threat. Learn more about the benefits of LPS for your home by contacting a LPI-certified professional in your area.
Do you have a Building Lightning Safestory or perspective to share? Send us your news & notables for inclusion in an upcoming issue of Build & Protect.
Metal roofs are not designed for electrical continuity or to provide structural lightning protection. The anchoring sections of roofing and siding systems are not constructed to carry current because, in most situations, the thickness of the metal used is insufficient to provide a guaranteed path for lightning.
Third-party inspection can identify lightning protection system oversights, improper materials or methods, issues with compliance and the need for repairs or recommended maintenance. LPI-IP inspection and certification services provide peace of mind to ensure materials and methods comply with recommended practices and industry safety Standards. LPI-IP offers users the option of Standard specific inspections (LPI 175, NFPA 780 and/or UL96A), to accommodate market needs and a wider range of projects. Quality service, multiple inspection options and ease-of-use are a few reasons why LPI-IP is the industry’s fastest growing lightning protection inspection service. For more information about the LPI-IP Inspection Program visit www.lpi-ip.com or contact:
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Florida, Texas, Georgia And Louisiana Remain Top States For Lightning Claims; Lightning Safety Awareness Week is June 18 – 24
The study, done in partnership with State Farm® found:
- More than $825 million in lightning claims was paid out last year to more than 100,000 policyholders.
- Total insured losses caused by lightning rose 4.5 percent from 2015 to 2016, although overall losses have declined 12.4 percent since 2007.
- There were 109,049 lightning claims in 2016, up 9.7 percent from 2015.
- Over fifty percent of claims were related to electrical surge damaging components or wiring, while power surges from transformer or service line shorts were also contributing factors. “The average cost per claim dropped 4.7 percent from 2015 to 2016,” said James Lynch, FCAS MAAA, chief actuary at the I.I.I. “However, the overall average cost per claim has risen 42.3 percent since 2007. By comparison,” he noted, “The Consumer Price Index rose only 15.8 percent in the same period.”State by State Numbers
Florida—the state with the most thunderstorms—remained the top state for lightning claims in 2016, with 10,385, followed by Texas (9,098), Georgia (8,037) and Louisiana (5,956).Homeowners Insurance Coverage
Damage caused by lightning, such as a fire, is covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. Some policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of a lightning strike, which can cause severe damage to appliances, electronics, computers and equipment, phone systems, electrical fixtures and the electrical foundation of a home.In recognition of Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 18 – 24, the I.I.I. and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) encourage homeowners to install a lightning protection system in their homes.
“Lightning protection systems that follow the guidelines of NFPA are designed to protect your home by providing a specified path to harness and safely ground the super-charged current of the lightning bolt,” said Kim Loehr, Communications Director for LPI, a national organization that promotes lightning protection education, awareness and safety.
To locate an LPI-certified lightning protection system installer in your area, click here.
Facts and Statistics: Lightning
Consumer Alert: The Dangers of Shoddy Lightning Protection System Installations
Infographic: Got Lightning? Get Grounded
THE I.I.I. IS A NONPROFIT, COMMUNICATIONS ORGANIZATION SUPPORTED BY THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY.
Insurance Information Institute, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-5500; www.iii.org
The NWS and NOAA launched the National Lightning Safety Awareness Week campaign in 2001 to raise awareness about the dangers of lightning, a deadly, yet underrated killer. The Lightning Protection Institute joined the campaign effort in 2007 as partners, to provide messaging about lightning protection for structures, and explain how safety Standard-compliant LPS can make safe places safer. Since the beginning of the campaign, lightning deaths in the U.S. have dramatically dropped. Unfortunately, property and structural losses due to lightning continue to rise.
In support of this year’s LSA Week campaign, June 18-24, LPI is emphasizing the importance of protecting people, property and places. Once again, we are partnering with the National Lightning Safety Council to encourage awareness and share information throughout the week on several topics:
- Sunday: An Introduction to Lightning and Lightning Safety
- Monday: The Science of Lightning and Thunder
- Tuesday: Lightning Safety Outdoors
- Wednesday: Lightning Safety Indoors
- Thursday: Lightning Safety and Sports Activities
- Friday: Medical Effects on Lightning Victims
- Saturday: Protecting Your Home from Lightning
Help us build lightning safe communities by learning more about lightning’s dangers, and by sharing these important safety and protection resources! Finally, please remember to heed the advice of our pal and lightning safety ambassador, Lion the Lightning Lion: “When thunder roars, go indoors!”
Check out this infographic created by the Insurance Information Institute, in conjunction with LPI, to educate people on the dangers of lightning and how it can enter your home.
It’s Electrical Safety Month! Let’s include LIGHTNING in our electrical safety plans and discussions.
May is National Electrical Safety Month and each year, LPI supports the Electrical Safety Foundation International’s campaign to raise awareness. While supporting the campaign, LPI also takes the opportunity to remind the public of the dangers of a frequently overlooked and often underrated electrical danger; you guessed it–lightning.
When it comes to electricity, lightning may be the reigning queen, packing a rapid discharge of mega energy that can carry up to 300 million volts and 30,000 amps. That’s a powerful charge, compared to your household electrical current of 120 volts and 15 amps. It’s no surprise that a single lightning strike can kill a human or even an entire herd of cattle in an instant, and destroy an unprotected tree or structure in a flash of light.
Unfortunately, since lightning is the weather peril most frequently experienced by most people, most of the time in the U.S., we often see complacency and apathy about the risk. While NOAA, NWS and the National Lightning Safety Council are leading the way to promote awareness about lightning safety for people, LPI is helping to build lightning safe communities by sharing Build & Protect resources about benefits that safety Standard-compliant lightning protection systems (LPS) can provide for structures and property.
Lightning induced electrical fires can be especially destructive when a strike ignites a structural fire in one of the following ways:
* Through a direct strike
* In an arc discharge between two conductive objects at different induced potentials
* By a current surge in circuitry and electrical equipment
* By the overflow of substantial electrical current which causes overheating, melting or vaporizing of metal
* By arcing of lightning current from conductors at high-resistance grounds
* Through lightning puncturing pinholes in CSST gas piping
Since the key to electrical and fire safety is to prevent hazards before they happen, planning and awareness about personal lightning safety and specification and installation of safety Standard compliant LPS are important elements of a comprehensive electrical safety approach.
National safety Standards for LPS call for practical and tested solutions to protect a structure, its occupants, contents, equipment and operations. A complete system includes: strike termination devices, conductors, ground terminals, interconnecting bonding to minimize side flashing, and surge protection devices for incoming power, data and communication lines to prevent harmful electrical surges. Additional bonding and surge protection devices for vulnerable appliances may be needed, as well. In a nutshell, properly designed and installed LPS is always a total package protection approach.
So let’s play it safe with nature’s electrical risk. While enjoying the May flowers, please take care to head indoors whenever thunder roars. And for prevention-minded folks who want to make their safe places safer, make sure your LPS provider’s materials and methods comply with safety Standard recommendations of NFPA 780.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May to increase public awareness of electrical hazards. For more information about ESFI and electrical safety, visit www.esfi.org.
Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) Pipes Have Been Linked to Fires, Gas Leaks
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — MARYVILLE, Mo, April 27, 2017 — The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is telling its members to take liability precautions when installing lightning protection systems (LPS) on homes equipped with corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST), a common gas piping.
Lawsuits have alleged that CSST’s thin-walled composition has made it susceptible to fires caused either by lightning strikes or gas leaks linked to perforations in the piping. CSST manufacturers have denied charges that their products are either defective or contributed to property damage which would otherwise not have occurred.
“While safety Standard-compliant lightning protection systems provide proven and effective protection for homeowners against a leading weather threat, continued litigation and unknowns about CSST are a concern for our industry,” said Bud VanSickle, executive director for LPI.
“Unfortunately, the efficacy of these bonding practices hasn’t been verified, so there isn’t data to assure us that these tactics are solving the lightning susceptibility problems associated with the CSST product,” explained VanSickle. “Due to safety unknowns and the continued litigation, LPI is advising its members to disclaim CSST in very clear terms in their work proposals and documents.”
Concerns about CSST have prompted a national public awareness campaign, National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA) reviews, lawsuits and class action settlements. One was reached recently, for instance, with property owners in Maryland http://www.csstsettlement.com/.
LPI recently began a partnership with the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) http://www.firemarshals.org/ to help promote awareness and improve safety measures connected with CSST and the product’s susceptibility to lightning. Both groups are supporting efforts within the codes and standards community to increase performance criteria for CSST products.
“Documentation for CSST fire incidents is nonexistent, which makes it impossible to understand and solve the problem,” said Becky Teel, spokesperson for the Brennen Teel Foundation http://www.btfgaslinesafety.org/. Teel’s son, Brennen, died in 2012 in a Lubbock, Texas, home fire and explosion allegedly caused by the failure of yellow jacketed CSST.
According to the fire marshal’s report, lightning struck the metal chimney cap and arced to the gas piping of the Lubbock home where Mr. Teel was visiting. Brennen Teel, who was 31 years old, was killed when gas which had escaped through tiny holes in the CSST piping—reportedly punctured by the electrical charge produced by a direct lightning strike—ignited an explosive fire.
“We need a central database to catalog the important information about this fire risk, and we need it now,” added Teel.
“Great strides have been made in constructing fire-resistant buildings and improving fire-suppression techniques, both of which have reduced the number of fires in the U.S. Nonetheless, builders, firefighters and insurers are constantly working to mitigate fire risk wherever it exists,” said Michael Barry, vice president, media relations, Insurance Information Institute.
“The lightning protection industry has taken notice of numerous and mounting CSST-related lawsuits around the country—we’re concerned about protecting homeowners and our members,” said VanSickle. “As a nationwide group dedicated to lightning safety and lightning protection, we will continue to petition the codes and standards community for more improvement and urge the CSST manufacturers to support more research.”
The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is a not-for-profit, nationwide group founded in 1955 to promote lightning safety, awareness and education and is a leading resource for lightning protection information and system requirements. Visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org for more information.
Contact: Kimberly Loehr LSA/LPI Communications Office firstname.lastname@example.org 804-314-8955