Lightning Protection for Storage Facilities Eliminates the “What if?”


Lightning protection systems can be installed for large and small storage facilities, both during and after construction to safeguard structures and contents against surges, fire and explosions.

Lightning protection systems can be installed for large and small storage facilities, both during and after construction to safeguard structures and contents against surges, fire and explosions.

November 17, 2014 — What if you lost your valuables in a fire where no one was around for miles to report evidence of smoke or a blaze? Each year, millions of structures are damaged or destroyed by lightning.  While all types of structures should evaluate their lightning risk, storage buildings and facilities containing flammable substances and fire-susceptible materials can pose special concerns. Lightning strikes to these structures can ignite flammable vapors, resulting in a large-scale fires or explosions—losses that can be prevented when proper precautions for lightning protection are employed. With reports of lightning incidents at storage facilities and portable structures on the rise, insurance providers are taking a closer look at lightning protection options for these structures.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), lightning strikes cost nearly $1 billion in insured loses in 2012.  The I.I.I. puts the average lightning paid-claim at $6,400 in 2012, up 25 percent from 2011. I.I.I. reports state that damage caused by lightning, such as a fire, is covered by standard homeowners and business insurance policies. According to I.I.I. there is also coverage for lightning damage under the comprehensive portion of an auto policy. However, not all policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of lightning striking a structure—which is why property owners should check with their insurance provider for coverage specifics related to lightning.

Fires caused by lightning represent a serious threat, but the risk is often overlooked by property owners.  A single bolt of lightning can generate up to 200 kA of energy, which can spark fires, damage roofing or cause surging through electrical circuitry.  A lightning strike to an unprotected structure or storage facility can cause catastrophic damage to the building and its contents.  Fortunately, there are relatively simple and inexpensive measures that can be taken to substantially reduce the chances of lightning-related damage.  Most types of storage structures are susceptible to lightning damage. According to the National Weather Service, there are three main ways that lightning enters buildings: 1) a direct strike, 2) through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure, and 3) through the ground. Lightning can also travel through structural steel framing and reinforcing rods in concrete walls or flooring. On the outside of the structure, lightning can travel along the outer shell and may follow conductive metal vents, roof drainage elements and external supports as it seeks a path to ground.  None of these building elements are designed to carry lightning without incurring damage.   

Property owners needn’t play the odds or risk losing their valued possessions to lightning.  A professionally-installed lightning protection system which meets U.S. safety standards of LPI, NFPA and UL will prevent damage and impact to a self-storage facility by providing a safe, low-resistance path into the earth for lightning’s electrical energy.

Lightning protection is one of the least expensive security measures you can purchase for your structures and storage facilities, yet it offers the best type of insurance—peace of mind to protect your property and valuables. If you don’t want to play the lightning odds, consider a lightning protection system. And if you do opt for lightning protection, don’t forget to contact your insurance provider to check your eligibility for base rate credits or discounts for having the system installed.