How to Take Shelter During a Thunderstorm

Most people think they have a pretty good idea of how to take shelter in a thunderstorm: stand under the nearest tent or tree. Unfortunately, that tree makes a pretty good air terminal to intercept a lightning strike and the tree’s roots you’re standing on make you a good conductor for the electrical charge to go through. The same goes with the tent. A good rule of thumb is that taking shelter under things is a bad idea whereas taking shelter inside of things – permanent structures – is a good idea.

Good Shelters During Thunderstorms

In the event of a thunderstorm you should get indoors as soon as possible. Your home, school, a restaurant, or a local store are all good places to hide out during a thunderstorm. While these buildings aren’t protected from a lightning strike without a lightning protection system, they can take the charge to the ground without transferring any of that charge to you. Should the building catch fire after a lightning strike, exit immediately.

If you are unable to get inside a solid, permanent structure during a thunderstorm, the next best place to go is inside your car. Your car will also transfer the energy to the ground and cause you little to no harm. Again, if something happens to the vehicle then exit immediately.

Bad Shelters During Thunderstorms

Essentially, a bad structure is anything we haven’t yet mentioned. Tents, enclosed or not, and trees make terrible protection during a thunderstorm. In fact, they’re like magnets. And those trunks and stakes could inadvertently get you electrocuted by the charge as it goes into the ground. This is why it is so important to seek proper shelter.

What to Do if There is no Permanent Structure

If you are in an environment where there is no permanent structure around, you should walk out into the middle of a field, preferably in a low spot like a valley, and crouch down. Do this in such a way that your hands do not touch the ground in order to have as little contact as possible with the ground. Bend down and hug your knees with your head facing downward. The idea is to get as low to the ground without touching it as possible. If you have a backpack or sleeping bag with you, it is best to sit or kneel on it rather than touching the ground with your feet.

New NFPA 780 Standard

nfpa base lightning protection atlanta nfpa 780 2017

NFPA logo

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) updated their code within the past couple of months. They update their code every three years which gives us the NFPA 780 2017 Edition hot off the press. There have been a few significant changes for commercial lightning protection systems. One that is particularly exciting includes a lightning protection system that can be a stand alone with only one downlead within certain parameters. There can only be one air terminal needing to be grounded and it can’t be over a certain length. This is particularly beneficial in situations where poles (i.e. a flagpole that can’t carry a charge on its own) need to be protected because two cables running down gets bulky and excessive.

Yes, it Can Happen to You

it can happen to you homeowners insurance base lightning protection atlanta

photo by Allstate Insurance

A friend of an employee here at BASE Lightning Protection posted a picture on Instagram a few days ago of a new skylight in her media room. The problem is the “skylight” wasn’t a skylight at all. She had her roof get struck by lightning and the whole thing burned and fell in. The insurance company said it will be 6-8 months before the damage is repaired. They will end up rebuilding an entire house in that time. This is in Canton, Georgia, just north of Atlanta. The sad part is that this girl has been friends with one of our installers for over a year. With a properly installed lightning protection system this could have been prevented. This isn’t an uncommon phenomenon, and it can happen to you. Thankfully no one was hurt in this accident.

Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance does cover lightning damage. They cannot, however, recover or reproduce family heirlooms or unreplaceable assets. Family photos, stuffed animals, the trim on the door frame with little tick marks of how tall she grew since she was born. Those things are all gone. No amount of insurance can bring those types of things back, which is why it is so important to protect them in the first place.

What homeowners insurance can do is pay to have a lightning protection system installed on your house or give you a discounted rate if you have a system installed on your house. This could save you quite a bit of money in the long term and give you peace of mind during even the most dangerous thunderstorms.

Lightning Protection Code

2017 is particularly exciting for the lightning protection industry because our lightning protection code gets updated. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has recently released their updated version of the lightning protection code. The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) will be releasing their 2017 version later this year along with Underwriters Laboratories (UL). These are the three codes that lightning protection installers use to ensure that lightning protection systems will keep the structure safe that they want to protect. Each of these codes has their own certification, and these codes correlate very closely with few differences.

What Do Lightning Protection Codes Say?

The scope of these codes includes anything that relates to lightning protection, anything that could affect your home or office building or the Taco Bell you ran through for lunch today. NASA has spent time researching how lightning works and what happens during a lightning strike. These codes then take that information and decide how a lightning protection system should be created in order to curb the affects of dangerous lightning strikes.

Basic Concepts of Lightning Protection Code

Strike Termination

The whole point of lightning protection is to keep a structure from getting struck. In order to do this we install strike termination devices (The acronym is STD. And yes, people actually use it). We can use an air terminal, sometimes referred to as a lightning rod, or we can use an existing piece of metal under a certain set of criteria. These strike termination devices typically can’t be farther than 20ft. apart and must be at least 10in. above anything you are trying to protect. These devices do not attract or repel lightning, but sit just high enough off of the structure that it will intercept the lightning bolt just before it hits the building. These strike termination devices also need two paths to ground. We’ll get to that in a second.

Path to Ground

Once the lightning is intercepted by the strike termination device it has to have a place to go. We use conductor to bring the charge safely to ground. Conductor can be a number of different types of metals, but copper and aluminum are the most common. You can also use existing metal as conductor if it meets certain criteria. Like we mentioned before, two paths to ground is critical. If a charge becomes too much for one path to handle or if one path is blocked because the cable has been cut by maintenance men from other industries over time there is always the other path as a backup. According to NFPA 780, the only time you don’t need two paths is if you are protection a pole no higher than 25ft.

Grounding

The ultimate destination for lightning once it hits the strike termination device is the ground. The whole purpose is to divert lightning away from a structure by giving it another path into the ground. The resistance in the ground is measured by ohms, which can be measured by hooking the system up to an ohm reader. The code requires that any given downlead has less than 25 ohms of resistance, but suggests less than 5 ohms.

Do Building Codes Require Lightning Protection?

Depends on where you live. Lightning protection is required in certain instances in certain states. In the state of Florida, any commercial building taller than two stories is required by state law to have lightning protection. Florida just passed a law that requires all new construction commercial buildings have lightning protection installed. Areas that have high density lightning strikes are starting to require lightning protection by law. Here in Atlanta, even though lightning protection isn’t required by law, many building opt to have it installed because of the high strike density in Atlanta.

At the end of the day, lightning protection is about protecting people. The lightning protection code is designed to help educate and enforce good workmanship in the lightning protection industry and keep Moms and Dads coming home to their kids every night, and protecting your home so that you can sleep well knowing disaster won’t strike in the form of a lightning bolt at night.

Lightning Safety Awareness Week

lightning safety awareness week base lightning protection atlanta

Photo by Richland Center Fire Department

This week is important for the lightning protection industry: Lightning Safety Awareness Week. Lightning Safety Awareness Week was launched in 2001, and in 2007 the Lightning Protection Institute joined the effort to spread awareness about the importance of standard-compliant lightning protection systems.

Lightning Damage

Lightning protection systems are designed and installed on structures, commercial or residential, in order to prevent lightning from causing damage. A lightning bolt can be hotter than the surface of the Sun, and it travels at the speed of light. Without harnessing and diverting that power away from your home or office, consequences can be fatal. Here in Atlanta and the rest of the Southeast, lightning strikes occur often.

lightning safety awareness week

Lightning strike density in the United States

In fact, Georgia leads the nation in insurance claims due to lightning damage. While lightning related deaths have decreased since the launch of lightning safety awareness week, the costs of damages in lost assets has only skyrocketed nationwide. Because of this, we feel a special responsibility to share the week with you.

If you have any questions about lightning protection or are thinking about installing a system, don’t hesitate to contact us via our Contact tab. We would be happy to answer any of your questions, and we’d love to help you protect your family, employees, and assets.

Lightning Causes Record Losses in Q1

This year’s thunderstorms have been abundant and dangerous. In fact, the thunderstorm damage during the first quarter of 2017 has added up to a record high of losses for insurance and reinsurance companies. The total reached $5.7 billion. These record losses include lightning damage on homes and buildings.

This makes the second year in a row that insurance companies face heavy losses from thunderstorms. Many insurance companies now provide discounts or even demand their customers have a lightning protection system installed on their building to ensure the safety of people and assets being insured.

Q1 Insurance Losses BASE Lightning Protection Atlanta

via @SteveBowenWx on Twitter

 

If insurance companies are taking a hit then it also means that home owners and building owners who lease space to businesses are losing money or are forced to file claims with their insurance companies. Lightning is becoming more prominent and more dangerous to people and structures. This can be prevented, though, by a having a lightning protection system installed compliant with LPI, NFPA 780, and UL 96A lightning protection codes. You can find an installer by going to LPI’s website via the link above or click over to our Contact page and Adam Smith will contact you as soon as possible.

Lightning Safety = Electrical Safety

May is Electrical Safety Month, and as electrical companies are working toward awareness of the obvious electrical dangers in your household, it is important that we discuss a lesser known form of electrical danger: lightning. One bolt of lightning can carry up to 300 million volts. To put that into perspective, household outlets in the U.S. only carry 120 volts. This level of charge can cause a major house fire and even blow brick off of the side of your house like the church in North Georgia just a couple of months ago.

Electrical Safety Hazards

There are a few key ways that lightning can be a danger to your house or office building. Since lightning is a high volume of electricity, it may be pretty easy to guess. You’ve probably heard a few from your electrician:

  1. A Direct Strike: A direct strike can attach to your household because it becomes the closest path to ground, and therefor the path of least resistance. That’s the path that lightning will take each and every time, the path of least resistance. Since your house sits high up off the ground, it becomes an easy target compared to the ground itself should a difference in potential occur near your home.
  2. An Arc: An arc can be a couple of different things, but it is never quite as severe as a direct strike. An arc is when a fraction of the energy in a lightning bolt parts ways with the main charge. It looks like branches when you see a bolt of lightning. This can happen naturally in the air or also if there is a difference in potential with an object nearby. For example, if lightning strikes a roof of a commercial building, it may also strike a couple of antennae on top of that roof because there is a difference in potential between the roof and the antennae.
  3. Surge: Surge is when lightning makes it into the ground, often by hitting a tree nearby your house, then traveling through the ground into your home through a service – gas, water, electric, etc. – and then causing damage to appliances, phones, tv’s, and other technology inside your home. This is especially common in Atlanta and the rest of the southeast because of the strike density here.
  4. CSST Gas Piping: CSST piping is a common form of piping being used today to supply your home with gas. The problem with it is that it isn’t durable and is especially susceptible to lightning damage. The last place you want an electrical charge, which has the ability to start fires, to be in contact with flammable gas.

How to Prevent Electrical Hazards Caused by Lightning

The best way to ensure electrical safety when it comes to lightning is to have a lightning protection system installed on your home that includes a surge protection system if there isn’t one on your home already.

Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning: Fact Check

Someone sent me an email with a link earlier this week. He wanted me to use a quote out of Mark Twain’s short story, “Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning,” but instead I read the story. Twain writes about a couple that argues over common thought on lightning and lightning protection here in the Southeast in the late 1800’s. I encourage you to give it a read. It is funny how little things have changed over the  past 125 years. Instead of looking at one quote, I’m going to cover a few pieces of Mrs. McWilliams’ thoughts on lightning and its behavior.

Backstory

A man wakes up to his wife screaming for him to get up while hiding in the boot closet in the middle of a thunderstorm. Once he is awake he immediately starts an argument about why he doesn’t need to take cover during the storm. (Like I said, not much has changed in the past 125 years.) The cool part is how their argument covers what will and will not cause and protect you from a lightning strike.

What Does Protect Mrs. McWilliams from Lightning?

Hiding in a Boot Closet

Unfortunately, lightning isn’t coming to play hide and seek. Mrs. McWilliams immediately seeks shelter in the boot closet once she hears the first clap of thunder. Lightning is not coerced by where you are within your house, or even if you’re in your house at all. She chastises her husband for lying on their bed in the middle of a storm. She puffs,

Don`t talk to me, [Mr. McWilliams]. You know there is no place so dangerous as a bed, in such a thunder-storm as this, — all the books say that.

I don’t know what lightning protection books existed back then, but NASA’s findings and the code for the NFPA, the Lightning Protection Institute, and Underwriters Laboratories are unanimous that this is certainly not the case. If anything, a boot closet would be more dangerous than the bed because it will be harder to get outside of your house if it were to be struck. We have to give it to Mr. McWilliams on this one.

You Need Lightning Rods

She is frustrated with the way her husband is acting and would feel more protected if a lightning protection system was installed on their home.

I don`t see how you can act so, when you know there is not a lightning-rod on the place, and your poor wife and children are absolutely at the mercy of Providence.

Lightning protection systems do work. This point goes to the Missus.

Lightning is Attracted to Light

Once Mr. McWilliams finally gets out of bed he starts to light a match because it is dark since it’s the middle of the night. Mrs. McWilliams becomes flustered because she thinks that the light will actually attract lightning.

What are you doing? — lighting a match at such a time as this! Are you stark mad? …Put it out! put it out instantly! Are you determined to sacrifice us all? You know there is nothing attracts lightning like a light. [Fzt! — crash! boom — boloom-boom-boom!] Oh, just hear it! Now you see what you`ve done!

Lightning is only attracted to the most efficient path to ground. While metal conducts electricity better than other materials by providing less resistance, it has much more to do with height than material, and definitely not fire. Sorry, Mrs. McWilliams.

Lightning is Attracted to Wool

Now it looks like the two are going to be up for a while, so Mr. McWilliams starts to get dressed. He looks for his wool pantaloons. Mrs. McWilliams won’t have it.

Quick! throw those things away! I do believe you would deliberately put on those clothes at such a time as this; yet you know perfectly well that all authorities agree that woolen stuffs attract lightning.

Back on what does and does not attract lightning. Even if wool was conductive, it is a small amount of wool within the house, and the same amount of will will be in the house regardless of whether Mr. McWilliams is wearing it.

Singing Attracts Lightning

After Mrs. McWilliams tries to keep Mr. McWilliams from getting dressed in the name of a lightning strike, he decides to start to sing.

Mrs. McWilliams: Oh, don`t sing! What can you be thinking of?

Mr. McWilliams: Now where`s the harm in it?

Mrs. McWilliams: If I have told you once, I have told you a hundred times, that singing causes vibrations in the atmosphere which interrupt the flow of the electric fluid.

Mrs. McWilliams makes an effort to reason some of this stuff out scientifically now, but unfortunately she’s got it all wrong. While singing does send out vibrations, it will not affect the atmosphere, and lightning isn’t a fluid.

Mrs. McWilliams Takeaways

While it is humorous to read through this short story, it covers a pretty grave subject. Mrs. McWilliams, for all her misdirected thoughts on lightning, is right about how scary lightning can be. Lightning has the ability to blow bricks off of the side of a house or burn it down altogether. She was also right that she would be safer with a lightning protection system installed on her home. A lightning protection system could divert the charges away from her home and safely in the ground. The couple could have avoided this entire argument and the loss of a good night’s sleep with one call to us.

How to Spot Surge Damage (and What to Do About it)

It’s that time of the year again – thunderstorm season. If April showers do, in fact, bring May flowers we’re gonna have some bigguns this year. Unfortunately, with those showers comes dangerous lightning. Even though lightning may have never struck your house directly, your home could still have lightning damage. Surge damage is prominent in the Southeast, and especially here in Atlanta.

Many of the requests we get for lightning protection installation isn’t when lightning has directly struck a building but when lightning has struck a tree or another nearby object and has then come into the building through the electrical panel. From the electrical panel, the surge can come through your home and ruin fans, chandeliers, tvs, computers, etc. A single surge issue can cause thousands of dollars on even a smaller home.

How to Spot Surge Damage

Surge damage is very common in homes. Nearly any electrical error that happens can be caused by surge damage. One of our company owners had a Wii and a tv damaged by lightning on two different occasions. After a storm, if you notice tvs, light switches, game consoles, or anything else that runs off of electricity, then there is a  good chance that you have a surge problem.

What to Do About Surge Damage

The best way to protect against surge damage isn’t to go buy surge protectors like the one in this image. Popular belief is that these types of surge protectors somehow magically take all of the charge of a lightning strike from a tv. While these surge protectors are suggested to be installed in your home to protect against any charge that gets past your main surge protector, you need a surge protector installed on your electrical panel.

Electric Panel Surge Protectors

In a complete lightning protection system, the Lightning Protection Institute requires that a surge system be installed in conjunction with the lightning protection system. This surge system is made up of large surge protectors that are installed on your electrical box or boxes. This is a real surge protector that is meant to take a charge from a lightning bolt. Keep in mind that surge protectors need to be replaced once they have been exposed to a certain amount of charge, so it is critical that they be inspected after each thunderstorm.

It is vital that your home has a surge protection system installed on your home in conjunction with your lightning protection system. Surge issues happen more often than direct strikes. If you aren’t sure whether there is a surge system installed on your home or building feel free to contact us via the contact form on our contact page or give us a call.

NEFBA Trade Show

We had a great time last week at the Northeast Florida Builders Association (NEFBA) Trade Show. The organization is made up of residential and commercial construction contractors in Northeast Florida. The NEFBA is making a huge effort to increase membership of the commercial market in the Northeast Florida region. We’re happy to support their efforts and growing the community.

BASE Lightning Protection shared a double booth with our sister company, 6 Sided Sales. Adam Smith went down to Florida to join Heather Williams with 6 Sided Sales and her team with Versico to show our products and help  share information about roofing and lightning protection systems.

 

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