What does “responsibility” look like when evaluating lightning safety and protection protocols for senior care facilities?
In July of 2017, lightning sparked a fire at the Chesapeake Crossing Senior Community Apartments in Virginia. Now, the family of a woman who died in the fire at the senior living complex has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the management and corporate owner of the buildings. According to news reports, the suit alleges that the apartments and management “negligently failed” to provide proper maintenance for the complex, thus “endangered the lives” of the residents.
An attorney representing the family filing the suit described the complex as housing for “seniors with low income and limited mobility,” and thus alleged that the owner had a “duty” to maintain safe living conditions for its residents.
“That comes with serious responsibility when you’re caring for the elderly,” the attorney explained.
So what does that “responsibility” look like for owners, builders, architects and engineers in terms of the design and build process?
Officials from the senior care facility have stated that the building complex was “in compliance with the building code” and “equipped with smoke detectors and a sprinkler system.” But in terms of achieving serious safety, building code requirements—which typically mandate minimum requirements—often fall short.
According to NFPA sources, fires at senior care facilities are especially challenging and often necessitate more operational protocol and tasks than standard first alarm fire responders can handle. This is a major reason why many fire safety officials upgrade these fires to bring in second or multiple alarm assignments. Since a large percentage of our senior population is incapable of self-evacuating or recognizing a threat, swift response times and appropriate self-rescue tactics are not the expected emergency response for residents at senior facilities.
Detecting fires as soon as they start, keeping them from spreading and vigilance about fire detection, suppression and maintenance are expected safety practices. Unfortunately, many facilities fall short when it comes to implementing measures like lightning protection systems (LPS), which are designed to prevent storm-initiated fires in the first place.
Here’s a look at some of the mayhem that could have been prevented at the Chesapeake Crossing Senior Community Apartments, if lightning protection had been installed on the center’s structures:
Deaths of three residents
· Deaths of three residents
· Injuries to six others (including two firefighters)
· A four-alarm fire, damaging three out of five of the community’s buildings
· Numerous displaced residents from 144 apartments left uninhabitable
· A multitude of insurance claims
· A wrongful death lawsuit, with additional suits expected to follow soon
Assisted living facilities manage an important goal: care and housing for residents who are typically unable to live independently. Residents and their families trust these facilities to evaluate safety and potential risks to occupants, buildings and operations. When considering the potential risk lightning poses to seniors in terms of safety, susceptibility and disruption, shouldn’t the cost (often minimal!) of lightning protection be evaluated as standard protocol for assisted living facilities and housing centers?
MARYVILLE, Mo., Dec. 31, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Insights into the nature of lightning and advances in the lightning protection system (LPS) industry are helping to redefine our understanding of the weather hazard and its impact to people, property and places.
Here’s the Lightning Protection Institute’s (LPI) look back at a few striking reports about lightning and lightning protection as shared by scientific, economic and industry experts in 2018:
Lightning “Mapper” Shares Data Previously Unavailable to Forecasters
Last May, the NOAA GOES-17 satellite transmitted its first Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM). The revolutionary animation provides insight into thunderstorm formation and activity by sharing data never previously available to forecasters. Scientists say that the GLM helps forecasters anticipate severe weather to help issue appropriate weather alerts sooner. In dry areas of the U.S., information from the GLM may be of special assistance to firefighters in identifying regions prone to wildfires sparked by lightning.
Climate Change Increasing the Risk of Lightning-ignited Fires?
According to a study published in ScienceDaily, the earth could expect to see a 12% increase in lightning activity associated with forecasts of temperature warming. The study claims the U.S. alone, could experience as much as a 50% increase in strikes by the turn of the century. While the findings don’t suggest that lightning increases will occur everywhere, they do predict that increased activity can be expected in many regions—including areas of historically less lightning activity due to overly humid or wet conditions.
Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Lightning!
Researchers may have uncovered clues to the mystery behind a phenomenon known as “ball lightning.” Laboratory experiments by scientists at Amherst College in the U.S. and Aalto University in Finland led to the observation of a three-dimensional knot of atoms, called a skyrmion that closely resembles documented accounts of ball lightning. Described as magnetic spins composed of atoms in quantum gas, these skyrmion were first theorized some 40 years ago. According to scientists, future studies of skyrmion could pave the way for advancements in fusion reactors, while also helping to explain the mysterious natural occurrence of ball lightning.
Be Aware, Lightning Happens EVERYWHERE…
While working to spread awareness about lightning safety and increase education about lightning protection, LPI uncovered several new statistics about lightning and its very real fire risk. Unfortunately, most Americans are uninformed about the dangers lightning poses to homes, businesses and communities. To educate people about the underrated fire hazard associated with lightning, LPI compiled a shocking sampling of 2018 media reports in a new infographic.
Inspection Service Meets LPS Industry Needs for Quality Control
Recognizing a need for more stringent emphasis on quality control, the Lightning Protection Institute Inspection Program (LPI-IP), expanded services for third-party lightning protection review and certification. 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. “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,” explained Tim Harger, LPI-IP program manager. Quality control and standard compliance may be two important reasons why LPI-IP’s services are increasingly in demand in the marketplace.
Grant Helps Protect African’s Most Vulnerable from Lightning
The Ludwick Family Foundation announced it will provide a $99,000 grant to the African Centres for Lightning and Electromagnetics Network (ACLENET) to install lightning protection systems at Uganda schools and provide education to help African teachers, students and parents better understand lightning’s dangers and prepare themselves against its threat. Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, managing director for ACLENET described a “tremendous” outpouring of support from donors and volunteers assisting with the organization’s mission to protect Africa’s most vulnerable from the deadly lightning threat.
Lightning Included in “Big Weather” Conversation at NDRC
LPI was among presenters from organizations such as FEMA, IBHS, ICC, NOAA, NWS, Smart Home America, State Farm, The Weather Channel and others at the 2018 National Disaster Resilience Conference (NDRC) in Clearwater, FL. Communications director, Kimberly Loehr joined the panel of “Big Practice” experts at the NDRC in November to share a presentation about the growth of LPI’s “Build & Protect” initiative and how lightning protection systems are helping to further community level resilience.
Lightning Zaps Football Fun for Players and Fans
In what may have been the first in the history of sporting events, the First Responder Bowl game was ruled a no contest after lightning forced the cancellation of the football match-up between Boston College and Boise State on December 26. Play in Dallas was halted in the first quarter when lightning activity prompted officials to clear the field. After a 90 minute delay, officials called the game due to weather forecasts calling for persistent thunderstorm activity in the area.
Forecast Calls for Growth in the Global LPS Market
Research released by the global lightning protection system market cites pronounced growth expected for the industry in upcoming years. With lightning protection systems increasingly employed for buildings, homes, medical facilities, military compounds, factories, towers and even the Space Shuttle’s launch pad, the LPS industry is seeing record-breaking growth. And as more buildings are equipped with sensitive electronics and automated “smart” systems, the demand for LPS is likely to continue its increase.
Lightning’s Future File
It doesn’t take a psychic to know that if lightning events become more frequent, the likeliness of being affected by the weather peril that already affects the most people, most of the time, in the most places of the U.S., will also increase. Understanding the lightning threat and preparing people, property and places for the increased risk may be more critical in the future, than ever before.
The Lightning Protection Institute is a not-for-profit nationwide 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.
SOURCE Lightning Protection Institute
There’s still time to make those reservations! Hotel & Registration Extended for the 2019 ULPA/LPI Lightning Protection Conference!
LPI member company, Bonded Lightning Protection Systems Ltd. will serve as our industry host for the annual meeting, which will feature:
The deadline for hotel booking and conference registration has been extended to February 6, 2019! ULPA recommends clicking the new link below if you were unsuccessful in the past. If you still experience difficulties, please contact the hotel directly at 1-404-946-9000.
Intercontinental Buckhead, Atlanta, GA
(Be sure to adjust your search dates for more room options. The registration code will auto-populate.
When you join your ULPA and LPI partners in conference sponsorship, you help underwrite the industry’s premier educational event. Member support is crucial in helping to keep conference fees as low as possible, so please consider sponsorship participation.
A download copy of this Technical Bulletin is available here.
If more lightning is on the horizon, is it time to expand our field of knowledge about preparedness and lightning protection?
Lightning is fascinating but it’s also destructive and deadly. Scientists tell us that the earth experiences about 25 million lightning strikes per year. But what if that number of strikes were to significantly increase, or even double in the near future? Where will that leave vulnerable infrastructure in terms of expensive power losses, unscheduled down time and lost productivity due to increased surge incidents, or worse yet, full-scale fire losses due to lightning?
According to a study published in the journal ScienceDaily, we could expect to see a “12% increase in lightning” activity associated with forecasts of temperature warming, with the U.S. experiencing as much as a “50% increase in strikes by the turn of the century.”
“We think that by having warmer oceans and warmer temperature in general, we’re going to see higher evaporation and heat transfer, and thus higher frequency of convective storms that in turn results in more lighting-ignited fires,” said Andres Holtz, geography professor at PSU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and co-lead author of the journal study. “And with a climate mode such as SAM (Southern Annular Mode), stuck in its positive, fire prone phase that seems to amplify climate change, it doesn’t look good,” added Holtz.
While Holtz cautions the findings don’t suggest that there will be increases in lightning fires everywhere, they do suggest increased activity can be expected in many regions–including areas that have historically seen less activity due to overly humid or wet conditions.
These trends are expected worldwide, not just in the Southern Hemisphere,” explained Holtz.
If lightning becomes more frequent, the likeliness of being affected by the weather peril that already affects the most people, most of the time in the most places of the U.S., will also increase. So understanding the threat and preparing people, property and places for the increased risk is critical. Three measures that safety stakeholders can support now to help prepare tomorrow’s communities for lightning, are:
1. Insurance incentives for safety standard-compliant lightning protection systems (LPS).
2. Increased education and promotion of safety standard-compliant LPS.
3. Expanded risk assessment measures to gauge the lightning hazard in the building development process.
Stakeholders looking to keep pace with lightning protection news and industry trends that are helping to build lightning safe communities, can subscribe to LPI’s free “Build & Protect” newsletter at www.lightning.org.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an estimated 95,000 apartment structure fires occurred in the U.S. in 2016. How many of these fires were sparked by lightning is unclear, but a quick Google search of the words “lightning, fires and apartments,” reveals news accounts of countless lightning-sparked property losses throughout the country. And that’s just what’s been reported over the past few months.
Fire and insurance authorities cite roadblocks to obtaining accurate data about these lightning losses due to a variety factors, namely:
- A complex National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) which is a voluntary data collection depository of U.S. fire departments participating; thus incomplete and subject to field challenges and reporting shortcomings.
- A number of participating departments who fail to provide consistent data (every year).
- FEMA data suggesting that fire reporting to federal or state fire departments or industrial fire brigades is also omitted in NFIRS estimates.
- Lightning fire classification charts published by NFPA citing exclusions of fires at apartments or other multi-family housing.
- Non-existent historical data and tracking of “lightning-sparked” fires and ensuing property losses (insurance statistics) at U.S. apartment complexes.
When it comes to lightning and apartment buildings, it’s unclear as to who is making final decisions regarding risk assessment, tolerable risk and whether lightning protection should be employed as mitigation. In many cases, developers and home builders play leading roles in the design and construction of residential buildings and apartment complexes with building codes and standards (voluntary or otherwise), serving as key drivers in the construction decision-making process.
LPI is hopeful that improvements in the fire incident reporting systems can be enacted to make it easier for firefighters to provide good quality data about all fires–including those sparked by lightning. Unfortunately, funding to make even the most minor changes remains a challenge. In the meantime, while funding is under review, LPI encourages fire safety representatives to include lightning in their NFIRS and NFPA reports wherever relevant, so that communities and decision-makers can have an accurate strike count.
When fire professionals and first-responders take the lead for lightning safety, it helps prevent under-reporting about a potentially-devastating weather hazard and increases awareness about a preventable property risk.
In support of National Fire Prevention Week, October 7-13
For Immediate Release
MARYVILLE, Mo. — October 8, 2018 — According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) today’s home fires burn faster than ever. In a typical home fire, residents may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time smoke is visible or an alarm sounds. Understanding the risks and knowing how to react quickly and wisely can mean the difference between life and death in a fire event.
The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is teaming up with the NFPA — the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week™ for more than 90 years-to promote this year’s campaign, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere™,” which works to educate the public about basic but essential ways to quickly and safely escape a home fire. NFPA statistics show that the number of U.S. home fires has been steadily declining over the past few decades. However, the death rate per 1000 home fires that are reported to fire departments was 10 percent higher in 2016 than in 1980.
“These numbers show that while we’ve made significant progress in teaching people how to prevent fires from happening, there’s still much more work to do in terms of educating the public about how to protect themselves in the event of one,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “This is particularly critical, given the increased speed at which today’s home fires grow and spread.”
Carli notes that although people feel safest in their home, it is also the place people are at greatest risk to fire, with four out of five U.S. fire deaths occurring at home. That over-confidence contributes to a complacency toward home escape planning and practice.
While the NFPA campaign is focusing on home fires, their fire safety messages apply to virtually any structure and any type of structural fire-including those sparked by lightning.
“In working to spread awareness about lightning safety and increase education about lightning protection, we’ve come to realize that most Americans are uninformed about the dangers of lightning; including its very real fire risk,” said Kimberly Loehr, communications director for LPI.
Lightning’s extreme electrical charge can induce destructive surges through a building’s circuitry, puncture pinholes in CSST gas piping, explode brick and roofing, and ignite many types of structural fires. Insurance incident reports indicate that it only takes a single lightning strike to spark a devastating fire. And increasing news reports of lightning fires at countless homes and structures in the U.S. reveal that these tragic situations occur more often than people realize.
For property owners who don’t want to play the odds with lightning, a professionally-installed, safety standard compliant lightning protection system is a viable idea. Lightning protection systems (LPS) that follow the guidelines of NFPA 780, provide a network of low-resistance paths to safely intercept lightning’s destructive electricity and direct it to ground without impact to a structure or its occupants.
“Situational awareness is a skill people need to use wherever they go, but unfortunately people make choices in lightning and fire situations that jeopardize their safety or even cost them their lives,” said Loehr. “By sharing facts and education resources during Fire Prevention Week, we can increase awareness about an underrated fire hazard and hopefully, help build support for lightning safety initiatives, too.”
To educate people about the fire dangers of lightning and the benefits of lightning protection systems for homes and structures, LPI created a new infographic to support this year’s “Look. Listen. Learn.” campaign which highlights three important steps people can take to help quickly and safely escape any fire scenario:
- Look for places fire could start.
- Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm.
- Learn two ways out of every room.
For more information about Fire Prevention Week and home escape planning, visit www.firepreventionweek.org
LPI is leading a Build and Protect effort for lightning safety by providing important lightning protection resources for property owners, insurance providers, architects, engineers and construction planners. When safety stakeholders take a proactive mitigation approach to the lightning hazard, they help prevent lightning-sparked fires at all types of structures. For safety and quality assurance, LPI-IP provides third-party inspection and certification services to ensure lightning protection system compliance with nationally-recognized safety standards.
The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is a not-for-profit, nationwide group founded in 1955 to promote lightning safety, awareness and education and is a leading resource for lightning protection and system requirements. Visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org for more information.
For more information contact: Kimberly Loehr, NFPA Building Fire Safety Systems Section Member, LPI Communications Office, firstname.lastname@example.org
In support of National Fire Prevention Week, October 7-13, 2018
Download the LPI Fire Prevention Week infographic: