|While most facilities have upkeep provisions or periodic maintenance programs for their building systems, a lightning protection system check-up, can fall through the cracks. The vast majority of operations managers and building owners aren’t familiar with industry requirements and recommendations designed to ensure system safety and effectiveness. In this Tech Letter, the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) examines industry recommendations and best practices for lightning protection systems to help ensure materials and methods maintain compliance with nationally recognized safety Standards.
Maintenance and inspection of existing lightning protection systems (LPS) to continue the designed safety for the structure is an ongoing process. Maintenance for LPS is also fundamental in ensuring compliance with industry safety Standards of LPI-175, NFPA 780 and UL-96A. LPS maintenance can be of special concern in situations where re-roofing, high volumes of construction traffic, severe weather events, alterations or structural changes to a building have occurred. Given the high frequency of lightning events in the U.S., maintenance checks for LPS make sound preventative sense, too.
Industry recommendations call for a visual inspection to be performed annually, with an in-depth inspection and follow-up quality assurance certification or report provided every three to five years. Buildings with critical systems like hospitals, EMS facilities, airports, etc. may need to be inspected every year, depending on activity, occupancy or the environment where the protected structure is located.
In addition to routine maintenance inspections, lightning protection systems should be inspected whenever any alterations, repairs, re-roofing or modifications are made to a protected structure. A certified LPI lightning protection specialist can take care of needed repairs or modifications and order a follow-up inspection to ensure continuity of the system and continued compliance with industry safety Standards.
Older buildings with LPS can pose other challenges; especially if a structure is equipped with antiquated lightning protection components (twisted cable, tripod rods, deteriorated grounds, etc.), or if no record exists regarding when the system was installed. How does the property owner or maintenance manager confirm that the system is intact, fully functional and in compliance with national safety Standards? If no one can answer these questions, it’s time to schedule a LPS inspection and maintenance check for the structure.
Here are a few important provisions of a LPS maintenance check list:
- Inspection of all air terminals to ensure none are bent, cracked, broken or otherwise damaged.
- Refastening and tightening of components and conductors where required.
- Check for loose, damaged or cut cable connections; check connectors and splice fittings to ensure all leads are firmly connected with no loose ends.
- Ensure through-roof connectors are firm with roof conductors and attached according to industry standards and cable holders and anchors remain firmly attached with proper spacing and runs secured.
- Continuity tests and measurement of system resistance and grounding electrodes.
- Inspection and testing of surge protection devices.
- Confirmation that no part of the system has been weakened by corrosion or vibration.
- Follow-up inspection (recommended every 3-5 years, or as structural changes and/or re-roofing necessitates) to ensure overall installation methods and materials comply with industry safety Standards.
- Risk assessment methodology (NFPA 780 Annex L) to determine if additional structures on the property are at risk to lightning.
A preventative approach to lightning protection maintenance is important for all protected structures. LPS defects caused by age, disconnections, severe weather events, structural neglect, or outside contractor traffic can pose safety problems. Lightning protection technology requires expertise for system design, installation and quality control. An experienced, LPI certified lightning protection specialist can address potential safety problems and provide maintenance services to ensure that age, mechanical damage or modifications to the structure do not degrade the system.
Follow-up Resources for Inspection and Maintenance of LPS
LPI 177 Lightning Protection Institute Inspection Guide
This LPI maintenance and inspection document includes a glossary of industry terms, system requirements and a checklist for visual inspections. LPI 177 is available for purchase on the LPI website here
NFPA 780 Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems
The foremost lightning protection Standard in the U.S., NFPA 780 is a primary implementing source for the IEC 62305 (International Electrotechnical Commission) series of documents. NFPA 780 also provides the foundation for numerous specialized lightning protection documents for organizations such as the DOD, DOE, NASA and the FAA. Prior to the development of the IEC series, NFPA 780 was routinely referenced and used worldwide.
Annex D of NFPA 780 outlines two levels of inspection:
- An internal or maintenance style inspection to be performed on a yearly basis by on-site personnel via visual inspection.
- A testing inspection performed at 3-5 year intervals, by an industry professional
The 2020 Edition of NFPA 780 document is available for purchase on the LPI website here
Recognized by MasterSpec, LPI-IP is the industry’s quality leader for independent, third-party inspection services by a third party Nationally Recognized Testing Lab (NRTL). LPI-IP Master Certificates carry a three-year expiration date to complement the NFPA three-year code review process and keep pace with new technology. The LPI-IP also provides a convenient follow-up service to notify LPS installer firms when the three-year Master Certificates are about to expire.
If you suspect your structure’s LPS is in need of an assessment, contact your local LPI expert here to schedule a maintenance review. For information about quality assurance, third-party inspection services or system certification, contact the LPI-IP office at firstname.lastname@example.org.