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

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

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

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

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

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

Fortunately, a lightning protection system can provide a grounding network to protect a structure from these deadly fires, which is why lightning protection is meeting the needs of safety, technology and design. National safety standards for lightning protection (LPI 175, NFPA 780 and UL-96A) specify tested and effective solutions to protect a structure, its occupants, contents, equipment and operations. A complete system includes: strike termination devices, conductors, ground terminals, interconnecting bonding to minimize side flashing, and surge protection devices for incoming power, data and communication lines to prevent harmful electrical surges. Additional connectors, fittings or bonding for CSST gas piping may be required and surge protection devices for vulnerable appliances may be needed, as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lightning Protection: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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

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

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

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

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

The Good

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

The Bad

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

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

The Ugly

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

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

The Cure

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

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

It’s July and Lightning is Here! Are you Ready for Lightning?

Lightning protection systems can provide proven security and peace of mind for homes and businesses.

Lightning protection systems can provide proven security and peace of mind for homes and businesses.

July 14, 2014 — July is typically the most dangerous month for lightning in the U.S. According the National Weather Service, more than 30 % of all lightning deaths and injuries occur in July. Property losses are typically at their peak in July, as well with lightning losses ranging from fires which destroy entire structures–to surges that damage sensitive home electronics. According the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) lightning strikes cost nearly $1 billion in insured losses in 2013. In an analysis of homeowner insurance losses, the I.I.I. cited the average lightning-paid claim amount at $5,869, while the average cost of a home lightning protection system is $2,500.

Even though a single bolt of lightning can generate heat in excess of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit and a strike to an unprotected structure can cause catastrophic damage, the lightning risk is often overlooked. The function of the lightning protection system is often misunderstood, as well.

The highly conductive copper and aluminum materials used in a lightning protection system provide a low resistance path to safely ground lightning’s dangerous electricity. When the lightning protection network is in place, the lightning strike is intercepted and directed to ground without impact to the structure, occupants or contents.

A lightning protection system that meets national safety standards of NFPA 780 and UL96, UL96A includes the following elements:

* Strike termination network (air terminals or lightning rods)
* Down-conductor network
* Grounding electrode network
* Equipotential bonding network
* Surge protection devices (for incoming power, data and communication lines)

Failure to make proper provisions for special grounding techniques, or any of the above five elements can result in inadequate protection.

Dispelling Myths
Even thought lightning is the weather hazard experienced most often in the U.S., myths and misinformation about lightning protection persist.
July is the perfect time to reiterate a few facts about lightning and lightning protection:

My “whole-house protector” is all I need to prevent a lightning fire.
Contrary to popular belief, surge protection devices (SPD’s) cannot protect a structure against direct lightning strikes. While these devices are important components of a complete system to protect incoming utility lines against infiltration, on their own they do little to protect a home from lightning. However, when combined with a structural lightning rod system, (strike termination devices, bonding and grounding network) SPD’s can prove a valuable and effective means of protection.

Lightning rods don’t work and actually attract lightning.
Another myth commonly associated with lightning is that lightning rods attract lightning. In fact, a lightning protection system acts more as an interceptor of lightning, rerouting a strike and providing a safe path to ground for discharging the dangerous electricity. A lot of our critical facilities depend on lightning protection systems, so if they attracted lightning, we’d be in a lot of trouble, here.

I have tall trees that protect my home from lightning strikes.
The problem with a home nestled under a group of trees is where the best ground path for the lightning might be. Common metallic grounded systems within a home (electric, phone, gas, water) may provide a preferable grounding medium for the lightning. Therefore, lightning can actually “side-flash” from a tree and enter a home as it seeks a more conductive path to ground.

My home is high tech and is already grounded.
The average home is grounded to handle everyday electricity, but not the mega electricity (300 million volts of power) that lightning can pack. As the world becomes more and more tech-savvy, property losses from lightning strikes have actually increased.

I can install a lightning rod myself or get my handy man to put one on my roof. Lightning protection installation is not a do-it-yourself project. Only experienced and reputable LPI-certified and UL-listed lightning protection contractors should install lightning protection systems. Electricians, roofers and general contractors are typically unfamiliar with lightning protection requirements. Installations should only be performed by qualified personnel who are trained and certified in the installation of lightning protection systems in accordance with industry safety standards. Lightning protection installation isn’t a home science experiment.

Lightning rods are big and ugly and will detract from the looks of my home.  Lightning protection systems are everywhere and most are barely visible to the untrained eye.  An experienced lightning protection contractor will ensure the lightning protection system will not detract from the structure and will blend aesthetically with the roof and chimney composition.

While lightning can occur during any time of the year, July is typically the most dangerous month for lightning. Knowing the facts about lightning and lightning protection can help keep you and your family safe this summer. See http://lightning.org/learn-more/2014-lightning-safety-awareness-week/
for more facts and information about nature’s underrated risk.

Partners are Building Lightning Safe Communities to Promote Protection for People and Property!

lpiflyer2014_2lsaweek2014panelkimdonnalsa2014June 27, 2014 — It’s Lightning Safety Awareness Week and partnering groups across the country are once again joining forces to promote public awareness about lightning safety and lightning protection.

The LSA Week campaign began in 2001 when NOAA and the National Weather Service launched an annual initiative to increase awareness about the dangers of lightning and provide the public with safety information to help protect their families and property. Since 2001, outreach with like-minded partnering groups across the country has helped expand the campaign mission to deliver lightning safety and preparedness messages to the public!

This year’s annual campaign kick-off event was held at the University of Maryland’s Earth Science System Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) in College Park, MD on June 24. The event theme was “Building Lightning Safe Communities” and partner organizations from ESSIC, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), the Lightning Safety Alliance (LSA), Earth Networks, NOAA and the National Weather Service came together for a press conference, reporter workshop and an expert panel presentation to share news and educational resources about lightning.

There was good news to report about protecting people and property:

• A record low number in lightning deaths (23 in 2013 according to NOAA/NWS reports)
• A decrease in lightning property losses (nearly $700 million in 2013 as opposed to over $1 billion in previous years according to I.I.I. data)

While the significant decline in these numbers may be attributed to a fewer number of severe storms in 2013, more awareness about the hazard and an increased in the specification of lightning protection systems are believed to be factors, as well.

Yes, partnering efforts are helping to build lightning safe communities, but there is still much work to be done to help dispel myths and reduce apathy about lightning’s dangers. Lightning safety awareness and education boosted by partnership can continue to make a difference in protecting lives and property. By pooling expert resources accordingly, partners can come together to make a difference help build lightning safe communities!

More information about National Lightning Safety Awareness Week can be found at www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.

More information about lightning safety and protection for outdoor facilities can be found at www.lightning-risk.org. More information about the Building Lightning Safe Communities campaign can be found at www.lightning-safe.org.

LSAW Boiler Plates

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 installation in accordance with national safety standards. LPI certifies individuals for the installation of lightning protection systems through a Master Installer testing program to qualify competence. LPI supports lightning protection quality control and assurance through third-party inspection. Information about follow-up inspection services can be found at www.lpi-ip.com. For a list of certified contractors visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org.

About the Insurance Information Institute

The I.I.I. is a nonprofit, communications and research organization supported by the insurance industry.

The mission of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) is to improve public understanding of insurance—what it does and how it works. For more than 50 years, the I.I.I. has provided definitive insurance information. Today, we are recognized by the media, governments, regulatory organizations, universities and the public—as well as within the insurance industry itself—as a primary source of information, analysis and referral concerning insurance issues.

Visit www.iii.org for more information.

About the Lightning Safety Alliance

The Lightning Safety Alliance (LSA) is a non-profit, non-stock national business corporation comprised of lightning protection manufacturers, distributors and installers. Its purpose is to provide a comprehensive and focused evaluation and response to legislative, administrative and regulatory issues facing the industry. Additionally, the LSA acts as an informational clearinghouse for its membership and provides educational programing on lightning protection and lightning safety. Visit www.lightningsafetyalliance.org for more information.

About the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

About NOAA’s National Weather Service

The headquarters of the National Weather Service is located in Silver Spring, MD. With some 5,000 employees in 122 weather forecast offices, 13 river forecast centers, 9 national centers, and other support offices around the country, NWS provides a national infrastructure to gather and process data worldwide.  Each year, NWS collects some 76 billion observations and issues approximately 1.5 million forecasts and 50,000 warnings.

 

LSAW Fact Sheet

I. WHAT IS LIGHTNING?

  • Lightning is a visible electrical discharge that occurs within a cloud, between two clouds, or between a cloud and the surface of the earth.
  • As lightning passes through the air it heats the air quickly. This causes the air to expand rapidly and creates the sound wave we hear as thunder. Normally, you can hear thunder about 10 miles from a lightning strike.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) www.noaa.gov

Where, When and How Often Does Lightning Strike?

  • Average number of thunderstorms on Earth at any given moment: 1,800
  • Number of times lightning hits the Earth per second: 100

Source:Weather.com 

II. LIGHTNING INJURIES AND FATALITIES

Lightning can occur during any time of the year, but lightning casualties are highest during summer. July is generally the month with the most lightning. Lightning strikes often occur in the afternoon. Two-thirds of all lightning casualties occur between 12-6pm.

  • Males are five times more likely than females to be struck by lightning; around 85% of lightning fatalities are men.
  • People aged 15–34 years account for almost half of all lightning strike victims (41%). The majority (89%) of lightning deaths occur among whites.
  • About one-third (32%) of lightning injuries occur indoors.

Source:CDC

 

III. FIRES CAUSED BY LIGHTNING

From 2007 to 2011 local U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 22,600 fires per year that were started by lightning. These fires caused an average of nine civilian deaths and $451 million in direct property damage per year. Home fires accounted for 19% of the lightning fires, fires in non-residential structures, including businesses and other non-residential properties, accounted for 7%, vehicle fires accounted for 1%. The remaining 73% were in outdoor and unclassified properties.

Lightning fires in non-residential properties caused an average of $108 million in direct damage each year from 2007-2011. The average annual damage in non-residential properties includes:

  • $28 million in storage/facilities
  • $22 million in places of assembly, such as houses of worship and restaurants
  • $19 million in non-home residential properties such as hotels and motels
  • $15 million in mercantile and business properties such as offices, specialty shops and department stores
  • $15 million in industrial and manufacturing facilities
  • $3 million in miscellaneous properties

Source: National Fire Protection Association NFPA

 

IV. LIGHTNING-RELATED HOMEOWNER LOSSES

Lightning-related Homeowners Loss Homeowners Insurance Claims

 Source: Insurance Information Institute, State Farm

 

V. WHAT IS A LIGHTNING PROTECTION SYSTEM?

The highly conductive copper and aluminum materials used in a lightning protection system provide a low resistance path to safely ground lightning’s dangerous electricity. When the lightning protection network is in place, the lightning strike is intercepted and directed to ground without impact to the structure, occupants or contents.

A lightning protection system that meets national safety standards of NFPA 780 and UL96, UL96A includes the following elements:

  1. Strike termination network (air terminals or lightning rods)
  2. Down-conductor network
  3. Grounding electrode network
  4. Equipotential bonding network
  5. Surge protection devices (for all incoming power, data and communication lines)

Failure to make proper provisions for special grounding techniques, or any of the above five elements can result in inadequate protection.

Source: Lightning Protection Institute

The average lightning claim for homeowners = $5,869

The average cost of a lightning protection system = $1,500 to $4,200 

Source: Insurance Information Institute, State Farm

 

HOW EFFECTIVE ARE LIGHTNING PROTECTION SYSTEMS?

Lightning Protection Systems are highly effective at preventing lightning damage to buildings. A number of authorities have studied the benefits and reported on them, including:

  • In January 2003 the American Meteorologist Society issued a Bulletin endorsing the lightning protection requirements, stating, “It is now well established that properly installed and maintained lightning rod-based protection systems significantly decrease lightning damage.” Source:Lightning-risk.org
  • In 2001 a joint paper was issued by lightning experts at the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Nat’l Severe Storms Laboratory, Defense Explosives Safety Board, Dept of Energy, NASA and FAA. This paper underscores the critical role that lightning protection systems play in protecting our national infrastructure. Source:Lightning-risk.org

LSAW Personal Lightning Safety

Most lightning victims are steps away from lightning safety, so don’t be apathetic about lightning. Remember, When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

You are not safe anywhere outside. Run to a safe building or vehicle when you first hear thunder, see lightning or observe dark threatening clouds developing overhead. Stay inside until 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder. Do not shelter under trees.

If it’s not possible to shelter indoors or in a vehicle, these actions may reduce your chances of being struck by lightning:

  • Avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top.
  • Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
  • If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lightning.
  • Stay away from water, wet items (such as ropes) and metal objects (such as fences and poles). Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.
  • The vast majority of lightning injuries and deaths on boats occur on small boats with NO cabin. It is crucial to listen to weather information when you are boating. If thunderstorms are in the forecast, do not go out. If you are out and cannot get back to land and safety, drop anchor and get as low as possible. Large boats with cabins, especially those with lightning protection systems properly installed, or metal marine vessels are relatively safe. Remember to stay inside the cabin and away from any metal surfaces. Stay off the radio unless it is an emergency!

Indoors:

  • Avoid contact with corded phones
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm arrives.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
  • Unplug electrical equipment

 

Source: National Weather Service Office of Climate, Weather, and Water Services 

 

To prepare for a thunderstorm, you should do the following:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
  • Postpone outdoor activities.
  • Remember the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
  • Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
  • Unplug any electronic equipment well before the storm arrives.

Source:http://www.ready.gov/thunderstorms-lightning

 

National Electrical Safety Month Reminder: Surge Protectors Alone are Not Designed to Handle a Direct Lightning Strike!

rooftopstriketermdevicesMay 9, 2014 — May is National Electrical Safety Month and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is joining the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) to raise awareness about the importance of electrical safety. Naturally, our focus is lightning. Lightning is an underrated and often forgotten electrical hazard, even though the most powerful electrical surges are typically caused by lightning.

Lightning is the rapid discharge of atmospheric electricity that can pack up to 200 kA of electric energy (100 million volts of power). A lightning strike to an unprotected structure can be disastrous and a single incident can cost thousands of dollars, with losses ranging from damage to expensive electronics to fires that destroy entire buildings. No surge protection device or “whole-house” arrester alone can protect a structure from a direct lightning strike packing mega electric energy. A grounding network for lightning must be implemented, as well to provide structural protection.

Prior to the age of electronics, the threat to structures from lightning was primarily fire-related. Enhanced communications lines, power and generation systems and gas and water piping have since created induction problems for today’s structures, allowing lightning’s access through energized lines or system grounds. Decades ago, the introduction of low voltage wiring and electronically controlled building components presented a new vulnerability to lightning. To address these concerns, lightning protection standards were updated in the 1990’s, thus adding provisions for grounding and new criteria for lightning arresters and surge protection devices.

Now fast forward to 2014 and lightning protection is meeting the needs of safety, technology and design. National safety standards for lightning protection systems 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 connectors, fittings or bonding for CSST gas piping may be required and surge protection devices for vulnerable appliances may be needed, as well. The grounding network provided by a properly installed system is a total package protection approach. In a nutshell:

Surge protection + grounding network = lightning protection.

So while you’re enjoying the May flowers, make sure your lightning protection complies with recognized safety standards of LPI, NFPA and UL. 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

Trades Dabbling in Lightning Protection Quickly Learn that the Devil is in the Details.

This is NOT the face of quality lightning protection, but it is the type of work you can expect to see when inexperienced trades attempt to provide the system installation.

This is NOT the face of quality lightning protection, but it is the type of work you can expect to see when inexperienced trades attempt to provide the system installation.

badlightningprotect2April 10, 2014 — It’s unlikely that you’d hire a roofer to service your appliance repairs or contract with a plumber to handle electrical wiring for your home or business. So, isn’t it common sense to apply the same logic for your lightning protection system installations?  After all, a single bolt of lightning can generate up to 200 kA of electrical energy. Grounding for that magnitude of electricity requires special expertise and strict adherence to safety standards.  Surely, it’s important to insist on quality control when allocating money to protect your important investments against mega electricity!

While the need for quality assurance and safety for lightning protection is not a new concept, concerns about quality control are increasing with reports of “short cuts” and compromised systems appearing in the construction workplace.  A trend is developing with outside trades like electrical and roofing contractors attempting to grow their business by dabbling in lightning protection installation. This is a problem, as lightning protection specifications call for installation in accordance with national safety standards (NFPA 780 and UL 96/96A), UL-listed materials and work performed by LPI-certified lightning protection specialists.

Lightning protection specialists aren’t the only professionals communicating reminders about quality control.  The International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI) reiterated the importance of LPI-certified and UL listed installers for lightning protection applications.  IAEI devoted a new chapter called “The Fundamentals of Lightning Protection” to its 10th edition of the “Soares Book on Grounding and Bonding” in 2008, which was updated and expanded in the 11th edition, released in 2011. The handbook now includes a reminder to electrical contractors that “installation of a lightning protection system is much different from the installation of electrical service wiring.” (Remember, there’s electricity and then there’s mega LIGHTNING electricity!)

According to the Soares handbook: “specialized material and installation methods such as that specified in NFPA 780 and UL 96 are required and the system should only be installed by qualified personnel trained and certified in the installation of lightning protection systems.”

A third-party, independent lightning protection inspection service, such as UL or the LPI-IP Inspection Program can ensure quality control for residential and commercial systems. The LPI-IP Inspection Program is serving a growing need for property owners, insurers and builders as a comprehensive third-party quality control approach for commercial and residential lightning protection projects.  The LPI-IP Inspection Program is accepted in MasterSpec as a quality control inspection option for lightning protection.  More information about the program is available at the LPI-IP web site at www.lpi-ip.com.

Lightning protection is a specialty service, so electricians, roofers and general contractors aren’t the best sources for up-to-date information about lightning protection.  Business and homeowners need to contact an experienced, LPI-certified lightning protection specialist for reliable service that meets industry requirements. The LPI-certified specialist will know how to interpret the safety standards, as well as provide the proper third-party inspection requirements for quality assurance closeout.

Perhaps Benjamin Franklin, the inventor of the first lightning rod, provided the best advice about quality control when he said, “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”

Yes, the devil is often in the details, so don’t let April thundershowers sink your ship!  Stay ahead of the storm by insisting on quality lightning protection from a reputable, experienced specialist to safeguard those property investments; especially your home, trees and business structures.