Prevention is Key to Reducing Home Fire Risks; Including Blazes Sparked by Lightning
October 10, 2016
In support of National Fire Prevention Week
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that home fires account for $6-8 billion in property damage in the U.S. Many of these fires are preventable, including those sparked by lightning; an underrated and often overlooked fire risk. Lightning-sparked fires that occur in the darkness of night, can be difficult to detect; particularly if the fire originates in the attic, basement or electrical panel.
A single lightning strike can carry 300 million volts of electricity and 30,000 amps. Compared to a household electrical current of 120 volts and 15 amps, lightning’s mega electricity packs a powerful punch which can have devastating results. These fires can be especially destructive, when lightning ignites a home fire in one of the following ways:
- Through a direct strike
- In an arc discharge between two conductive objects at different induced potentials
- By a current surge in circuitry and electrical equipment
- By the overflow of substantial electrical current which causes overheating, melting or vaporizing of metal
- By arcing of lightning current from conductors at high-resistance grounds
- Through lightning puncturing pinholes in CSST gas piping
“The key to fire prevention is to focus on all fire hazards and prevent them before they start, and this includes lightning—a hazard that may not be as obvious,” said Jim Narva, executive director of the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM). “Homeowners may also be unaware that most lightning fires, can be prevented through the design and installation of a NFPA 780 compliant lightning protection system.”
The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is partnering with the NASFM to help improve safety measures connected with CSST (a flexible gas tubing found in many homes) and its susceptibility to lightning-related fires. NASFM has a campaign underway to reduce the number of these fires, and LPI has joined the effort. https://lightning.org/lightning-protection-institute-joins-state-fire-marshals-in-effort-to-reduce-fire-risk-present-in-millions-of-u-s-homes/
Both groups believe that safety can be achieved through the adoption of an improved performance criteria for flexible gas piping (ICC-ES PMG LC1027), which is presently available for installation in new homes.
“The science of lightning protection is keeping pace with our ever-changing technology,” said Mitchell Guthrie, former Chair of NFPA 780 and current Chair of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s Technical Committee on Lightning Protection. “The newly-released 2017 edition of NFPA 780 includes 12 chapters and 15 annex sections to address design requirements, applications and risk assessment measures for lightning protection systems,” added Guthrie.
When installed by a LPI-certified specialist, lightning protection systems can meet the needs of safety, technology and design. A complete system includes: strike termination devices, conductors, ground terminals, interconnecting bonding to minimize side flashing, and surge protection devices for incoming power, data and communication lines to prevent harmful electrical surges.
Homeowners seeking information about lightning’s risks and the benefits of lightning protection systems can watch this short YouTube video, “How to Protect Your Home in a FLASH.”
The NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years. For more information about this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, visit www.firepreventionweek.org.
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 and system requirements. Visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org for more information.