“Lightning Kills! Save a Life in Africa” Program Provides Vital Gift of Lightning Protection for Schools

Volunteers in U.S. seek funding and support to provide more African communities with critical relief from lightning’s deadly threat

The African Centres for Lightning and Electromagnetics Network (ACLENet) is spearheading a program to provide the vital gift of lightning protection at Uganda schools. Volunteers from the Lightning Protection Institute and Lightning Safety Alliance are helping to ensure that safety standards are met for the lightning protection system designs, materials and installations. Funding is needed to provide more school communities with this critical relief.

HARTFORD, Conn.Dec. 3, 2019 /PRNewswire/ –Lightning is a leading storm killer across the globe, but in developed countries, it is typically unusual to see more than one person killed or injured during the same lightning event. Unfortunately, lightning tragedies involving multiple people are commonplace in Africa, as illustrated in October when 39 students were injured when lightning stuck a school building in Tanzania’s northwest region of Geita. Among the injured, 24 youths sustained serious injuries, requiring hospital referrals for follow-up medical care.

“Lightning tragedies like this illustrate the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of ACLENet’s work,” said Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, managing director of the African Centres for Lightning and Electromagnetics Network (ACLENet) “Because schools tend to be the most substantial buildings in African villages, and natural gathering places for communities, ACLENet is working to protect schools and utilize them as centers for lightning safety education.”

Thanks to generous funding by the Ludwick Family Foundation (LFF) and volunteer efforts of lightning experts in the U.S. and South Africa, ACLENet is installing lightning protection systems (LPS) at model schools in Africa. A “Lightning Protection Working Group” of international volunteers, which includes members from the U.S. based Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) and Lightning Safety Alliance (LSA), meets by teleconference each week to direct aspects of the LPS design, materials selection and installation for the schools.

“Members from the Lightning Protection Institute and the Lightning Safety Alliance involved in the development and maintenance of both NFPA and IEC lightning protection standards helped form the group tasked with developing lightning protection system designs for the schools,” said Mitchell Guthrie, LPI representative and senior engineer.

A former Chair of NFPA 780 and the International Electrotechnical Commission’s Technical Committee on Lightning Protection, Guthrie brings a wealth of industry knowledge and experience to the effort.

“This expertise helps ensure standards are met for lightning protection system design, materials and installations to protect as many Africa schools as possible, while working within the limited funding,” explained Guthrie.

The LFF funding has provided lightning protection and safety education in several Uganda districts, but more donations are needed to expand the effort. Dr. Cooper hopes increased awareness about safety benefits provided by lightning protection at Africa schools will spark additional support.

“A celebrity who has experienced lightning’s impact first-hand—someone like Sir Richard Branson or Lou Holtz—could be instrumental in shining a spotlight on lightning’s underrated dangers to expand this important safety effort,” explained Dr. Cooper. “We’re hoping someone reading this can help connect us with that life-changing support.”

ACLENet is seeking funding and volunteers to help reduce injuries, save lives and decrease crippling infrastructure damage from lightning in Africa. Visit ACLENet.org to learn how you can support the effort.

ACLENet is a nonprofit network of national centres in Africa dedicated to decreasing deaths, injuries and property damage from lightning. ACLENet implements aspects of lightning protection, education, mentoring and graduate training to interface with African governments and protect communities from the lightning threat. 

The Lightning Protection Institute is a not-for-profit, U.S. 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. 

The Lightning Safety Alliance is a nonprofit, U.S. league of lightning protection professionals and consumers dedicated to the promotion of lightning protection and lightning safety. Visit the LSA website at www.lightningsafetyalliance.org for more information.