September is Campus Fire Safety Month! Is your school prepped to prevent a lightning fire?

Safety is a primary concern for every school in the country, and even more so at colleges and universities where large numbers of students reside in campus dormitories and apartments. Severe weather and fires pose special threats to school communities. Since lightning is the weather peril that affects nearly every area of the country, it’s important that school administrators, coaches, emergency managers and security personnel understand the threat and develop a plan to protect students and fortify their school structures.

Here are three questions designed to help schools examine the lightning risk and reduce their exposure:

  1. Does your school have an evacuation plan in place in case of a lightning fire? If not, make this a priority TODAY! Lightning fires aren’t always visible in their initial stages. A lingering acrid or unusual smell can be evidence of a lightning strike, so it’s important that school safety directors and resident assistants check attic and basement spaces right away. In a fire, seconds count, so be sure to investigate a potential lightning strike immediately and call the fire department for expert guidance. School officials and educators seeking information about fire evacuation will want to review these helpful Campus Fire Safety resources.
  2. Has your school performed a lightning risk assessment or cost-benefit analysis to evaluate lightning protection system (LPS) installations for new construction, building renovation and existing structures? Not sure how to assess or who to consult? Architects, safety professionals, building owners and property managers have come to rely on the NFPA Lightning Risk Assessment methodology found in the NFPA 780 Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems, to determine risk of damage due to lightning.
  3. Is your campus “schooled” in the science of lightning and lightning protection? Don’t wait for a lightning event to test your school’s storm smarts; get enlightened now! The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) provides a wealth of resources for school officials to view and download. Visit this LPI website link to view videos and public safety announcements, download brochures about lightning protection, read FAQ’s, and browse LPI’s own “Library of Resources.”

Finally, if your campus doesn’t have an outdoor lightning safety policy, there’s no time like the present to make sure staff and students take the lightning threat seriously to stay vigilant at sporting and recreation events. Mitigating severe weather threats for large groups of people can be challenging, and implementing a lightning safety policy is no exception. Having clearly communicated measures and a best-practice policy in place can go a long way in preventing a devastating lightning tragedy. For schools seeking preparedness guidance, Earthnetworks.com has compiled a list of 8 Lightning Policy Best Practices” for implementing smart approaches to lightning safety. 

Are you a student, educator or school official? If so, LPI invites you to support Campus Fire Safety Month and help raise awareness of fire safety at your school. Visit http://www.campus-firewatch.com/ for additional resources and important safety information.