Tending to the Trees: An Earth Day reminder that lightning protection helps keep trees healthy & green!

“They are beautiful in their peace, they are wise in their silence. They will stand after we are dust.  They teach us, and we tend them.”
~ Galeain ip Altiem MacDunelmor

Today is officially “Earth Day” which sparks an important question: Are you tending to your trees?

Even if you aren’t a full-fledged tree-hugger, you probably know that lightning is nature’s most frequent peril and hence a tree’s most-feared predator.  Lightning damages and kills more trees than we can account for in the U.S.  A single bolt of lightning can carry 100 million volts of electricity, so unless a tree is equipped with a lightning protection system, it can be extremely vulnerable to the common weather hazard. Lightning can injure the tree from a direct hit or side flash (lightning jumping from a nearby object), and problems can vary from light limb damage, to total annihilation.

Lightning’s electrical charge can boil the liquid sap, causing natural gases in the tree to expand, which in turn cause the phloem (bark) to split open or the tree to literally explode.  Lightning’s current utilizes the high resistance wood as a conductor, causing massive damage as it transverses tree components on its way to ground.  In some instances, the only evidence of a lightning strike may be the internal browning of the xylem (water-conducting woody tissue), which causes a gradual decay of the tree.

In honor of Earth Day 2018, LPI is re-posting these commonly-asked questions about trees, lightning and lightning protection:

Q. Are there risk factors or conditions that apply regarding a tree’s vulnerability to lightning?

A. Geographic location, species/type of tree and height are factors that may apply.  According to agricultural specialists, lightning is most likely to strike trees under these conditions:

  • lone trees
  • tallest trees in a group or tallest tree at the end of a group of trees
  • trees growing in moist soil or close to a body of water
  • trees closest to a building or structure

 Q. Are some trees more vulnerable to lightning than others?

A. Trees most vulnerable to lightning (those with high starch content) include: maple, ash, poplar, pine, oak, hemlock, elm and sycamore.  Large oak trees are often vulnerable due to their size or prominence. Trees less vulnerable (those with high oil content) include: birch, beech and chestnut.

 Q. Why should property owners consider lightning protection for trees?

A. Any trees that are valued for landscaping, sentimental or historical reasons should be protected, including those trees which add aesthetic value to the property. 

 Q. How does a lightning protection system protect a tree from damage?

A. A copper cable and grounding system is used to intercept lightning’s harmful electricity and conduct it safely underground and away from the tree, so that no damage occurs to the wood or the roots.  The principle employed for tree lightning protection (in accordance with NFPA 780 Safety Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems) is the same concept that protects homes and buildings. 

 Q. Does the tree lightning protection system also provide protection for nearby structures on the property?

A. No. The system provides protection for the tree only.  Separate lightning protection systems should be considered to protect structures on the property.

 Q. What kind of maintenance is needed for a tree lightning protection system?

A.  An annual visual check of the tree should be made by the property owner or maintenance manager to ensure all elements of the system remain connected and in place.  Occasionally, additional cable runs, air terminals or grounding components may need to be added to accommodate tree growth.  It’s also important to check lightning protection cables at the base of the tree to ensure no system interruption or damage has occurred from weed trimming, lawnmowers, or ground excavation.

 Q. Who can install the lightning protection system?

A. Be sure to contact a UL-listed, LPI-certified lightning protection specialist or a qualified arborist to ensure your system is installed in accordance with national safety standards.

 In most situations, a tree struck by lightning will continue to decline over time and eventually require removal. Most trees succumb to disease or death more quickly if the lightning strike passes completely through the trunk (streaks of splintered bark are typically visible on both sides of the tree when this occurs).  Typically, property owners will notice signs of decay within two weeks of a lightning strike. Since few trees survive a direct lightning strike, it may be good insurance for property owners to consider lightning protection for vulnerable trees, specimen trees, historic trees or trees over public shelters. 

So in the spirit of Earth Day 2018, “let’s get planting!” And, if you want to keep your trees healthy for years to come, don’t forget the lightning protection. Think of your lightning protection system as the hug that keeps on giving, to keep your tree “green” and living!

Lightning Protection Inspection Program Expands Services to Meet Industry Needs for Quality Control and Service

LIBERTYVILLE, Ill – April 9, 2018 – Increased education about lightning losses and the availability of safety standard-compliant lightning protection is furthering an understanding of best practices for lightning protection system (LPS) design, installation and inspection. Recognizing a need for more stringent emphasis on quality control, the Lightning Protection Institute Inspection Program (LPI-IP), is expanding its services for third-party lightning protection review and certification.

The construction market is increasingly relying on LPI-IP for lightning protection system inspection with the program seeing a 300% growth since beginnings, and a 44% increase in users in 2017.

“LPI-IP is the only third-party certifying organization that verifies lightning protection system completeness, proper materials and methods, code compliance, and notification for future assessments; including needed repairs or maintenance,” said Tim Harger, LPI-IP program manager. “Ensuring lightning protection compliance to national safety standards and project specifications is an essential part of quality control for construction managers, property owners and building occupants—reasons why LPI-IP’s services are increasingly in demand in the marketplace,” explained Harger.

To accommodate construction market and consumer needs, the program now offers four service options: Master Installation Certificate Inspection, Extended Master Installation Certificate Inspection, Reconditioned Master Installation Certificate Inspection and Limited Scope Inspection. All options provide cost-effective inspection services to ensure LPS compliance with national safety standards.

“Knowing where to turn for up-to-date and accurate information about lightning protection can be difficult,” said Bud VanSickle, executive director of the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). “By incorporating checkpoints, reviews and inspections, the LPI-IP certification program is ensuring safety and peace of mind to building owners throughout the U.S.”

The construction market appears to be increasingly relying on LPI-IP for lightning protection inspection services—the program has seen a 300% growth rate since its beginnings in 2011 and a 44% increase in users in 2017.

Key features of the LPI-IP Inspection Program include:

  • A three-year expiration date which complements the NFPA 780 three-year code review cycle and process to keep pace with technology.
  • Services applicable for a wide-range of inspection needs; including commercial, industrial, military, medical, educational and residential projects.
  • LPI-IP inspections are accepted in MasterSpec as a quality control inspection option for lightning protection systems.
  • Design review by a professional engineer, documentation of concealed components and verification of grounding and NRTL* field inspection of rooftop lightning protection.
  • Users are offered the option of Standard specific inspections (LPI175, NFPA 780 and/or UL96A), and extended certification covering Military specifications to accommodate market needs and a wider range of projects.

For safety and quality assurance, LPI-IP provides certification for lightning protection which complies with U.S. nationally-recognized safety standards, only.

For more information about the LPI-IP Program, visit www.lpi-ip.com view this infographic for highlights of the LPI-IP services.

For additional information about lightning protection and lightning safety, visit the Lightning Protection Institute website at http://www.lightning.org

*Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory

 

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Five takeaways from the 86th annual Lightning Protection Conference

During the first week of March, the United Lightning Protection Association (ULPA) and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) hosted its 86th annual conference in Singer Island, FL. Lightning protection professionals from various states across the country came together for three days of professional development, continuing education and networking. The gathering of industry members and experts—from product manufacturers and system installers—to scientists and code authorities, explored a wide range of lightning protection topics. For those of you who were unable to attend the 2018 ULPA/LPI Lightning Protection Conference, I’ve compiled five takeaways that sparked conversation and interaction. For those of you who were there, here’s a chance to relive some of the enlightening highlights.

1.   Compliance matters in all matters of LPS

Compliance is not an option for safety, and lightning protection system (LPS) materials, methods and installations need to comply with the NFPA 780 Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems. A primary implementing document 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. NFPA 780 serves as the basis for LPI-175 Standard of Practice for the Design-Installation-Inspection of Lightning Protection Systems, which is commonly used by LPI-certified designers and installers. The standard addresses LPS installation requirements for structures, watercraft, wind turbines, industrial stacks and other special occupancies and construction in the marketplace. New information and sections are added to NFPA 780 in conjunction with a three-year review process.

“The standard is yours, so help make it better,” urged conference presenter, Christine Porter, chair of the NFPA Technical Committee on Lightning Protection.

For industry members who want to be part of the NFPA review process, the First Draft Reports for Standards in the Annual 2019 revision cycle are available for review and public comments.

2Data applications have changed in recent years and the SPD market is evolving to keep pace

Applications for surge protective devices (SPDs) have very different individual prerequisites for the systems they are designed to protect. Unfortunately, that can be problematic in an era where technology and building systems are rapidly changing. Lightning can initiate a domino effect path of transient overvoltage which can disrupt, degrade and damage multiple electronic systems and connected equipment, making the correct application for SPDs an essential component of the LPS network. If you attended the conference workshop presented by Greg Martinjak with Erico/Pentair, you likely learned about applications for “Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, Type 4 and Type 5” SPDs and surge suppressors. But, if you missed the conference or Martinjak’s presentation and want to learn more about the intended use for SPDs for LPS in compliance with UL 96A, here’s a link you’ll want to check-out.

3.   The lightning problem related to CSST has not been solved

While safety standard compliant LPS provides proven and effective protection against a leading weather threat, continued litigation and unknowns about CSST (a flexible gas piping found in millions of U.S. homes and commercial structures), are a concern for the industry and the public at large. Last spring, LPI advised its members to disclaim CSST in very clear terms in work proposals and documents, due to its lightning susceptibility problems and the lack of verification data. Concerned by refusals of CSST manufacturers to conduct or release findings of testing, the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) recently commissioned its own testing to investigate potential safety impacts of typical household electrical current (120 volts) on CSST.

“We are praising NASFM for looking beyond the risk of CSST when lightning is present,” said Becky Teel, spokesperson for the Brennen Teel Foundation, and a presenter at the 2018 ULPA/LPI Lightning Protection Conference. Teel shared that she and her husband Ken, created a Foundation in the name of their son, Brennen Chase Teel, who was 31 years old when he was killed on August 24, 2012 in a Lubbock, Texas home, where the installation, bonding and grounding of CSST was deemed “proper” according to the product manufacturer. Teel explained that Brennen died in an explosive fire as a result of the puncture of CSST—a failure that was lightning-induced. Since Brennen’s death, news outlets have continued to share incidents of similar failures that are occurring all over the country; threatening lives and property.

According to Teel, data collected in the NASFM lab testing has determined serious deficiencies with the so-called “new lightning-resistant” CSST and revealed that it is actually more susceptible to failure when it comes into direct contact with the electrical system or some other metallic object that has become energized. The new test results commissioned by NASFM of 120 volt household current testing on CSST and Black Iron Gas Piping can be viewed at http://cssttesting.org/.

4.   Non-conventional LPS (still) isn’t backed by testing and science to validate performance

The need for LPS to comply with U.S. safety standards cannot be overstated. Products known in the marketplace as “Early Streamer Emission” (ESE) air terminals, “dissipation array systems” (DAS), charge transfer systems (CTS) do not comply with NFPA 780 and have been the subject of criticism by independent lightning experts and renowned meteorologists and scientists.

A panel of lightning experts, Dr. Bill Rison, Dr. Carlos Mata and Dr. Dustin Hill, led a conference presentation and discussion about disconnects between science and non-conventional lightning protection systems. One takeaway: “Science is a beautiful gift to humanity; we should not distort it.” A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. (Let’s listen to the scientists!)

The Scientific Committee of the International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP) has posted advisements “against production, marketing and use of such systems before their claimed effects have been verified and the results generally agreed upon by the international scientific community.” ICLP has also posted scientific papers and opinions for review on the topic on the ILDC website.

5.   The LPS industry is stronger than ever

Allow me to cite a few reasons:

* The expansion and growth of the LPI-IP inspection and certification program (300% growth rate since its beginnings in 2011 and a 44% increase in user base in 2017), which continues to meet industry needs for LPS quality control and service.

* The construction market, consumers and partner organizations are increasingly relying on LPI as the go-to resource for the most accurate and up-to-date information about lightning protection and safety standard compliant system requirements.

* Promethean ideas like the “LPU” (check it out!), seek to “educate students on the concepts of lightning protection systems and introduce them to a career path in the lightning protection industry.”

* Interested and engaged industry professionals are attending the annual ULPA/LPI Lightning Protection Conference to receive LPS continuing education and engage in peer collaboration. This yearly exchange helps spark innovative ideas and furthers support for new technologysafety messaging and increased education.

If you’re a LPS professional or just a lightning bug making plans for the future, you’ll want to make sure you plan to attend the ULPA/LPI Lightning Protection Conference in Atlanta next year. So, stay tuned for upcoming details and information!

LPI & the CE Academy are Bringing Continuing Education & Networking to a City Near You!

Checkout our 2018 Schedule of Lightning Protection Continuing Ed Enlightenment!

Looking to learn more about Lightning Protection Continuing Education in a Lunch & Learn setting? The LPI is partnering with the Lightning Safety Alliance (LSA) and the CE Academy to bring the Lightning Protection 101 (LSA 101) course to your doorstep!

ce academy

In each one day event, the CE Academy provides 4-8 hours of AIA-registered CE courses, including breakfast and lunch! For your convenience, the CE Academy also issues certificates of completion and reports AIA credits for every event. The LSA 101 Lightning Protection session is a one-hour course which includes a review of proper lightning protection system design and application as conforming with NFPA and UL lightning protection requirements.  LSA 101 participants receive (1) AIA HSW /LU credit.

The CE Academy has scheduled the following LSA 101 sessions for 2018:
Date: Location 
3/8/2018 Oklahoma City, OK  (complete/closed)
4/12/2018 Charlotte, NC (complete/closed)
4/26/2018 Fairfield, NJ (complete/closed)
5/1/2018 DC Area Event (complete/closed)
5/17/2018 Lexington, KY (complete/closed)
6/26/2018 Minneapolis, MN (complete/closed)
7/10/2018 Tampa, FL (complete/closed)
8/23/2018 Indianapolis, IN
9/13/2018 Miami, FL
11/6/2018 Denver, CO
11/13/2018 Albany, NY
11/27/2018 New York, NY
12/12/2018 Fort Worth, TX

LSA 101 providers have have extensive knowledge of lightning protection methods and are actively involved in the lightning protection industry and its trade associations. Learning Objectives of the LSA 101 course include:

  1. Participants will gain a general understanding of how lightning protection systems work including the five essential elements of effective lightning protection systems.
  2. At the end of the program participants will be aware of the considerations that should be made during project planning to specify effective, attractive and low-maintenance lightning protection systems for all types of structures.
  3. Provide project planners with a general understanding of lightning protection systems.
  4. Make planners aware of the five (5) essential elements of a lightning protection system.
  5. Identify the areas planners should consider when specifying lightning protection systems.
 Discounts are available for early registration, so visit the CE Academy website today for information about events, fees and program agendas.  For more information about the LSA 101 program, visit the Lightning Safety Alliance.

Advancing lightning safe communities as a Weather Ready Nation (WRN) ambassador

March 2018 marks the fourth anniversary of the NOAA Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) Ambassador initiative launch and its effort to recognize community partners working to improving the nation’s “readiness, responsiveness and overall resilience against extreme weather, water and climate events.” The WRN initiative asks its Ambassadors to assist in minimizing the effects of natural disasters by taking the following actions:

LPI is helping to build lightning safe communities with fellow Weather Ready Nation (WRN) ambassadors, Owlie Skywarn and Leon the Lightning Safety Lion.

* Promote WRN messages and themes to stakeholders
* Engage with NOAA personnel on potential collaboration opportunities
* Share success stories of preparedness and resiliency
* Serve as an example by educating re: preparedness
* Serve as a “change agent and leader” in the community

As a WRN Ambassador, the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is committed to improving resilience against the lightning threat—often underrated among other severe weather concerns. Unlike other weather perils, lightning knows few geographic boundaries and is a leading storm-related hazard responsible for unnecessary deaths, debilitating injuries and an excess of preventable property losses. LPI’s recent efforts to help build lightning safe communities in the U.S. include:

  • Supporting more insurance incentives for safety-standard-compliant lightning protection systems (LPS).
  • Working to increase recognition of code and safety standard-compliant LPS.
  • Encouraging expanded risk assessment measures for the lightning hazard in the building development process.
  • Sharing “Building Lightning Safe Communities” initiative resources to improve safety for people, places and property.

Once again, LPI will heed the WRN call to action at next week’s 86th Annual Lightning Protection Conference in Singer Island, FL, where industry members will participate in education programs, scientific presentations, workshops and collaboration sessions designed to enlighten participants about various aspects of the lightning hazard. Attendees will also learn how LPI’s “Building Lightning Safe Communities” initiative is making a difference to improve lightning safety and reduce lightning losses in communities across the nation.

So, let’s get ready to be a force of nature in Singer Island and don our WRN Ambassador hats to listen and learn more about the lightning risk. Then, let’s take risk prevention a step further by serving as ambassadors to share enlightenment and help build lightning safe communities in our own cities and towns for 2018 and beyond!

Building Lightning Safe Communities: an architect’s perspective

LPI is an authorized provider for the AIA Registered “Lightning Protection 101” Program, a Continuing Education Course that provides a review of safety standard-compliant lightning protection system design and application.

The Lightning Protection Institute is working to shine the spotlight on the lightning peril and expand its “building lightning safe communities” initiative through outreach efforts with mitigation-minded partners; including architects, engineers and risk-management stakeholders.

This month, LPI reached out to experts in the architecture community to get their thoughts about lightning and lightning protection. For our January blog, LPI is excited to share a few highlights from Kim Loehr’s  interview with a talented and engaging, innovator, Michael Lingerfelt.

Building Lightning Safe Communities: Architect Q&A  

Michael Lingerfelt, FAIA, LEED AP, President of Architecture and Design Lingerfelt International

As a registered architect with over 37 years of experience in design and project delivery, Michael Lingerfelt’s work has included architectural services for Marriott Hotels and Disney Theme Park Attractions. He is the former chair of the American Institute of Architects Disaster Assistance Committee, where he instructed over 1,800 architects, engineers, building officials, and inspectors as a California Emergency Management Agency Safety Assessment Program Trainer, and provided safety evaluations following hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and floods. In 2012, Lingerfelt was named to the prestigious American Institute of Architects College of Fellows for his efforts in advocating that architects should serve the public surrounding a disaster.

Q. How familiar are you with lightning protection?

A. Having lived in central Florida, I’ve witnessed lightning’s power first-hand; including the time I experienced lightning striking six feet away from me at Animal Kingdom. The strike was so stunning; it left me deaf for a few hours! So when it comes to the built environment, I understand the role that lightning protection systems play and consider these systems to be a critical component for many architecture and engineering projects.   

Q. As an architect, what would you like to learn about lightning protection systems?

A. I’d like to understand more about the ‘rules of engagement’ for lightning protection design; what are the variables I can play with–without compromising safety requirements? When presented with a lightning protection plan, I’ve sometimes found myself thinking: there’s got to be a better way to troubleshoot design while still satisfying safety standard requirements. This is why it’s helpful to bring the lightning protection expert into the process early, so that it doesn’t look like an after thought.

Q. Are there design/building trends that you see where lightning protection can play an important role? 

A. Innovation in lightning protection design where components and elements are implemented as functional aspects of the structure are trends I’m seeing and encouraging. It’s great when elements of the lightning protection can be strategically placed to be made part of the construction. For example, it’s ideal when you can make the lightning protection spire part of the Milky Way for the Mission Space project, or when you can strategically implement flat metal plates as a design element of Tibetan culture prayer flags. These are a few design mannerisms I’ve helped replicate for Disney projects. Other exciting projects include the Animal Kingdom Expedition Everest, Hulk at Universal Roller coaster, the Orlando Eye on International Drive and the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom–all of which have incorporated lightning protection using unique, yet safety compliant methods. 

Q. Did you know that LPI provides an AIA registered Continuing Education course for architects? 

A. No, I did not, so I’d recommend work to get the word out to the state AIA chapters and their Allied members! Continuing education is a requirement of architecture license and vital to the health, safety, and welfare of the community. Since most architects look at lightning protection as part of the electrical engineer’s scope, the industry could be better served to convey that lightning protection doesn’t have to compromise the integrity of the designer. Safety is the message that needs to get out, so there’s a need to change the conversation–perhaps stress that lightning protection can be a design element and also play an important part in the function of the building.

Safeguarding the past and preparing for the future: Why lightning protection is important for historic structures

Historic structures possess unique characteristics that typically require elevated levels of scrutiny for insurance, safety, building maintenance and risk management. These thorough levels of examination can delve even deeper depending upon whether the structure is a “certified historic rehabilitation” (eligible for tax credits) or a recognized historic landmark that is a designated part of a property, building or locality.

Anyone who has ever owned, managed, maintained or worked on or around a historic building can appreciate the litany of factors involved when it comes to preservation, restoration, and rehabilitation of these properties. It’s not just age that makes these buildings more expensive to replace or repair after damage has occurred; it’s more typically the design, construction and building components found in historic structures that make them more vulnerable to damage—especially by fire. And as we know, a single bolt of lightning can generate up to 200 kA of electrical energy, making the threat of fire from a direct strike or indirect surge, a serious concern for historic buildings and landmarks.

For property stakeholders concerned about lightning, the National Park Service has released a Lightning Protection Preservation Brief, written by Charles E. Fisher, which graciously references acknowledgements to several LPI members and LPI member companies who contributed information and materials. The 20-page, illustrated document provides lightning protection system (LPS) guidance for property owners and trades involved in the preservation of historic structures. Although lightning protection isn’t necessarily a mandatory requirement just because a building is historic, the brief includes a clear reminder regarding the role of lightning protection for these structures: “As an irreplaceable cultural resource, historic structures at risk of damage or loss from a lightning strike merit protection.”

Safety standard-compliant lightning protection systems are often included in renovations of historic properties to help safeguard these irreplaceable structures from a leading weather threat.

LPI-certified lightning protection specialists can meet the special considerations needed for working on your historic structure or landmark.

Just a single lightning strike can eradicate the heritage and cultural value of an unprotected landmark in an instant; making a sound argument for risk prevention against this common weather hazard.

The document also features a wealth of lightning protection information, including detailed reference sections for the following:

* Maintenance and repair of historic and older LPS

* Inspection and evaluation of LPS on historic properties

* Factors to consider when assessing need for LPS

* Historic preservation guidance re: design/installation of new LPS

* LPS and re-roofing concerns for historic structures

* Historical information re: LPS codes and standards

* Spotlight case studies of historical properties

Since lightning makes no distinction between new or old construction, lightning protection should be a serious consideration in terms of risk management and insurance for all structures—but especially for historic buildings, where irreplaceable items, heritage and cultural values could be eradicated in a fraction of a second, if lightning were to strike.