Public Reminded about Dangers of Lightning and Surge Protection Limitations
May 14, 2015
During National Electrical Safety Month, LPI raises awareness for lightning, an overlooked electrical hazard
HARTFORD, Conn., May 14, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — May is National Electrical Safety Month and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is joining the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) to raise awareness about the importance of electrical safety—including lightning, an underrated and often forgotten electrical hazard.
Lightning is the rapid discharge of atmospheric electricity that can pack up to 200 kA of electric energy (100 million volts of power). A lightning strike to an unprotected structure can be disastrous and a single incident can cost thousands of dollars, with losses ranging from damage to expensive electronics to fires that destroy entire buildings. A single surge protection device or “whole-house” arrester is not sufficient to protect a structure from a direct lightning strike packing extreme electric energy. A grounding network, commonly known as a “lightning protection system” must be implemented, as well to provide safe and effective protection against lightning.
“The electrical ground installed by the electrician for your structure is there to protect the internal workings of the electrical system for everyday electricity—it’s not designed to handle the mega electricity that lightning can pack,” said Bud VanSickle, executive director for the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). “Even though the majority of surges are created from large appliances switching on and off within a structure or power grid switching from the electric utility company, lightning is typically responsible for the most powerful and destructive types of surges.”
Prior to the age of electronics, the threat to structures from lightning was primarily fire-related. Enhanced communications lines, power and generation systems and gas and water piping have since created induction problems for today’s structures, allowing lightning’s access through energized lines or system grounds. Decades ago, the introduction of low voltage wiring and electronically controlled building components presented a new vulnerability to lightning. To address these concerns, lightning protection codes and standards were updated in the 1990’s; adding more provisions for grounding and new criteria for lightning arresters and surge protection devices (SPD’s).
“Today’s lightning protection network takes a total package approach which includes a system to ground the structure, a primary SPD (or SPD’s) for the service entrance and sometimes secondary protection at the point of use for high-end equipment or appliances,” said VanSickle. “It’s important that the lightning protection system complies with national safety Standards of NFPA 780 and UL 96A to address requirements for full protection.”
The NFPA and UL safety Standards for lightning protection systems employ practical and tested solutions to protect a structure, its occupants, contents, equipment and operations. 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. Additional connectors, fittings or bonding for CSST gas piping may be required and surge protection devices for vulnerable appliances may be needed, as well.
Lightning protection is also not a “do-it-yourself” project. Only experienced and reputable UL-listed and LPI-certified lightning protection contractors should install these systems to ensure materials and methods comply with safety Standards.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May to increase public awareness of electrical hazards. For more information about ESFI and electrical safety, visit www.esfi.org.
LPI is a not-for-profit, nationwide group founded in 1955 to promote lightning safety, awareness and protection education. The organization provides a certification program to quality competence in lightning protection installation, design and inspection. For facts about common lightning myths and misconceptions, view LPI’s infographic at https://lightning.org/wpcontent/uploads/2014/12/LSAW-Infographic.jpg Also visit the LPI website at https://lightning.org/ for more information or to find a qualified lightning protection installer in your area.
The Lightning Safety Alliance (LSA) is a non-profit national business corporation which provides educational programing on lightning protection and lightning safety. LSA supports the efforts of LPI in its mission to reduce lightning-related deaths and property losses. Visit www.lightningsafetyalliance.org for more information.