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.