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
Will 2017 receive a five-star ⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡rating for lightning losses in the U.S.?
It seems those March winds and April showers may have ushered in more than spring flowers for many property owners across the country. According to new statistics shared by partners at the Insurance Information Institute, U.S. insurance and reinsurance markets have seen record costs from losses due to thunderstorms and convective weather. With $5.7 billion losses cited, the first-quarter of 2017 has seen more than its fair share of stormy skies–and for many parts of the country, it’s not even officially lightning season yet! In terms of costly weather, you could say that 2017 may be deserving of a “five-lightning bolt” rating.
The good news? While lightning is often a leading threat associated with thunderstorms and tornado conditions, property losses associated with this weather peril can be minimized, if not eliminated through the implementation of safety Standard-compliant lightning protection systems (LPS). This is another reason why LPS has become increasingly important for the building process, as planners and businesses continue to emphasize sustainability and resilience in design and construction. In an era where technology, delivery methods and construction science are evolving at such a lightning-fast pace, specifying LPS is a recognized part of the best practice risk management approach.
Looking to learn more? Architects and Engineers are urged to visit LPI’s A&E portal for important “Build & Protect” materials and information. Property owners may want to visit LPI’s learning center for videos and resources to see how lightning protection systems are helping to reduce structural losses in the U.S.
Join LPI in Orlando for three days of fast-paced, hard-hitting ideas, inspiration, education, networking, and innovation from some of the industry-leading architects, firms, and building product manufacturers.
You build it. We help PROTECT it!
Recognizing the importance of disaster mitigation for the architect and engineering communities, Build & Protect , is a newsletter written specifically for A&E’s to provide unique content related to lightning protection system (LPS) design, specification, quality assurance, inspection and maintenance.
Find out how the inclusion of safety Standard-compliant lightning protection systems in your state-of-the-art designs can benefit the building environment.
Highlights from the LPI/ULPA Lightning Protection Conference
Over 100 industry experts from across the U.S. and Canada converged at the Woodlands Resort & Conference Center in Texas last month for educational enrichment, professional development, speaker programs and lightning protection brainstorming sessions.
In the spirit of learning from the past, and protecting for the future, LPI and ULPA members also participated in three separate panel-moderated forums to discuss:
* Job Site Safety for LPS Installations
* LPS for Miscellaneous (nonstandard) Structures
* LPS Installation Guidelines and Best Practices for Difficult Structures
Representatives from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes-FLASH and the Insurance Information Institute provided partnership updates and outlined strategies for continued networking in 2017. Mike Rimoldi, Senior Vice President of Education and Technical Programs with FLASH reviewed the building code process and delivered an update of the “HurricaneStrong Home” in Breezy Point, New York–a resilient rebuild project that LPI is helping to sponsor.
Jeanne Salvatore, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Chief Communications Officer for the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), provided a partnership overview along with a lightning data and damage statistics report. Information about lightning protection and insurance is available at iii.org and the LPI website.
“Being here with LPI is crucial to what FLASH does to advance lightning protection and safety,” said Rimoldi. “We are very pleased that LPI is committed to the #HurricaneStrong Home– their participation strengthens the connection between industry, LPI members, and promotion of lightning protection in commercial and residential construction.”
Inspection is Key Component to Safe & Effective LPS
It’s important to remember that safe and effective lightning protection begins with proper system design, continues with the implementation of quality materials and installation practices, and ends with inspection and certification.
The Lightning Protection Institute Inspection Program (LPI-IP) provides a lightning protection inspection and certification service more thorough and more complete than any previous inspection program from LPI or any other service currently on the market. By incorporating checkpoints, reviews and inspections, the LPI-IP certification program ensures safety and peace of mind to building owners about the U.S.
The LPI-IP program responds to the designer’s ultimate ‘Build & Protect’ lightning protection goal to provide safety, security of investment and elimination of potential system downtime. The program was created to provide the most comprehensive inspection service for LPS in terms of safety, quality control and professionalism. Checkout LPI’s recent blog to find out why LPI-IP is the industry’s fastest growing lightning protection inspection service, with a 300% growth rate since 2011.
Make sure your LPS project isn’t missing the important inspection component. Visit www.lpi-ip.com for more information about the LPI-IP Program.
“Closing the Loop” to Prevent Under-reporting of CSST and Lightning Fire Incidents
In recent years, LPI has petitioned the fire safety community to include relevant data about lightning and corrugated stainless steel (CSST) gas tubing in its NFIRS reports to prevent under-reporting of these associated fire incidents and increase public awareness about potential safety risks. Unlike traditional heavier walled gas pipe, the corrugated design and the thin walls of CSST have proved problematic and susceptible to lightning’s high intensity electric charge. Lightning energies can perforate holes in the CSST and allow gas leakage and fire. In worst case scenarios, such leaks have led to devastating home fires.
A report released by the National Association of State Fire Marshals Fire Research and Education Foundation (NASFM Foundation), in 2014 concurred that “updating incident data reports when fire departments obtain new information could have the largest impact of any activity on reducing the high percentage of serious fires reported as having undetermined causal data.” The NASFM Foundation refers to this as “closing the loop” on a fire incident report.
In an effort to better protect homeowners from the possible loss of life and property, the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office is conducting a TEXFIRS/NFIRS Special Study to identify fire incidents where flexible gas piping (CSST) was present in a structure. The three-year study will detail fire department responding incidents from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2019.
“Understanding a problem at the state or national level requires documentation to see what’s happening from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,” said Fire Marshal Garett Nelson of the Lubbock Fire Rescue in Texas. “With regard to Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST), documentation has been virtually non-existent, and we need the documentation to better understand this complex fire problem.”
“In our quest to gather facts about the safety issues connected with CSST, it has become apparent that a central database to collectively house and catalog this important information is an immediate necessity,” stressed Becky Teel, spokesperson for the Brennen Teel Foundation . Teel’s son, Brennen died in 2012 in a Lubbock home fire and explosion allegedly caused by the failure of yellow jacketed CSST. According to the fire marshal’s report, lightning struck the metal chimney cap and arced to the gas piping of the home where Brennen was visiting. Brennen, who was just 31 years old, died instantly when gas which had escaped tiny holes in the CSST piping (believed to be punctured by lightning), ignited an explosive fire.
LPI recently began a partnership with the NASFM to support its campaign to help improve safety measures connected with CSST and the product’s susceptibility to lightning-related fires. LPI, NASFM and the Brennen Teel Foundation believe that safety can be increased through the adoption of an improved performance criteria for flexible gas piping (ICC-ES PMG LC1027), which is presently available for installation in new homes.
There’s a saying that goes, “An architect’s dream is an engineer’s nightmare.” A&E’s seeking to keep pace with lightning protection trends to help fortify their building dreams and nightmares, won’t want to miss an issue of Build & Protect !