What weather phenomenon causes more deaths and destruction each year than floods, tornadoes and hurricanes combined? —– Lightning. From the comfort and seeming safety of our homes, its power and ability to destroy is often underestimated. It is a force to be reckoned with, but we can protect ourselves from its consequences. The following are a few precautions to help protect you and your home.
Storms can create an electrical energy under certain conditions. Lightning is the visible form of that electrical energy and thunder is its audible result. Under the right conditions, that energy will travel to the ground and strike the highest or closest point. One lightning strike is the equivalent of 100 million volts of electricity. As a result of its power and erratic path, you cannot stop lightning from striking your house, but you can take measures to steer its force in a safe direction.
Lightning does strike. So, the key is to steer its force in a direction that will not harm you or your property. You need a lightning protection system for your home that:
• Provides a safe path for the lightning to follow into the ground.
• Prevents damage as it travels that path.
Although all homes should have a lightning protection system, here are a few of the conditions that may point to an even greater need for protection.
• Houses located on top of a hill, or in an isolated or open area.
• Houses in a region that has 30 or more thunderstorms a year.
• Homes in your area that have already had lightning strikes.
• Houses with tall trees nearby.
• Houses with a chimney or stovepipe.
• Houses with aluminum siding, a television antenna, a metal ridge or metal eaves.
Contrary to popular belief, a lightning protection system will not attract lightning, nor will it prevent your house from being struck. However, it can provide a safe path for lightning to travel safely into the ground.
You should only use a qualified, licensed contractor to install your lightning protection system. Although your contractor can best advise you on the exact system you need, most systems include: roof lightning rods, ground termination rods, interconnecting conductors, and surge arrestors and suppressors for your wiring and electrical equipment.
If you’d like assistance in finding a qualified contractor in your area you may call the Lightning Protection Institute toll-free at 1-800-488-6864, or check out their website at www.lightning.org.
In addition to the installation of a lightning protection system appropriate for your house, there are several common sense tips that can protect you when there is a threat of lightning.
• Do not use a telephone except in an emergency.
• Stay away from electrical appliances, televisions, fireplaces, windows and exterior doors.
• You may unplug appliances prior to a storm, but do not do so once a storm has begun.
• Avoid touching kitchen and bathroom faucets and other metal components in your house.
• Seek shelter in an enclosed building or vehicle. If none is available, find a low lying area and crouch down with feet together and hands on knees.
• Avoid isolated trees, high ground, bodies of water, large open areas and large metal objects, including golf carts, bikes, fences and machinery.
• If with a group of people, do not stand together — spread out.
• If you feel a tingling sensation or your hair stands on end, a lightning strike may be eminent. Immediately crouch down and cover your ears. But, do not lie down flat or place your hands on the ground.
Note: These tips are designed to help you assess the safety and maintenance of your home and property, and to offer some precautions. Application of any or all of these suggestions may not prevent damage or protect you, or your property from harm. Your knowledge of the situation, use of your common sense and compliance with local and state codes should direct your course of action.