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Lightning Strikes: It Only Takes a Second to Spark Disaster

The spectacular power of lightning strikes are among the most dangerous and frequently experienced weather hazards. A single lightning bolt can carry from 100 million to 1 billion volts of electricity. Do you know how to protect your home or business from this awesome power?

How common are lighting strikes?

Over the contiguous 48 states, an average of 20,000,000 cloud-to-ground flashes are detected every year. June, July and August are the peak months for lighting activity, with 70 percent of lightning deaths annually occurring during this time – 58 per year, on average.

What happens during a strike?

Cloud-to-ground lightning involves an (invisible) path of negative electricity which lowers toward the ground in a series of spurts, toward ground objects that typically have a positive charge. Opposites attract, the paths meeting each other and erupt in a flash that occurs in about one-millionth of a second. After the strike, the charge spreads along the ground, meaning you could get struck indirectly. Lighting also can – and does - strike the same place twice. (The Empire State buildings receives about 100 strikes a year!)

How can you stay safe from lighting strikes?

  • Be informed about severe weather.
    If necessary, postpone outdoor activities.
  • Go indoors!
    The best shelter from lighting is still a substantial building whose windows and doors remain closed. Hard-topped vehicles are a secondary alternative.
  • Go unplugged!
    Unplug all electrical equipment for its safety –and your own. Lightning can jump through surge protectors – and across rooms!

Your roof may not protect you. 

Lightning strikes can tear through roofs, explode bricks and concrete, and ignite fires, transferring to any part of your home from the outer walls to framing, plumbing, and electrical wires. To protect yourself from lightning strikes, during a storm, do NOT…

  • Take shelter under trees or other tall objects, near metallic objects or bodies of water, or in carports, sheds, bleachers, or any other structure which does not have windows or doors that can be closed.
  • Approach windows or exterior doors.
  • Use landline phones.
  • Shower, bathe, wash your hands, do dishes or laundry.
  • Use equipment that is plugged in, such as computers, TVs, stereos, and other electronics.

How can I protect my home or business?

Certified specialists can install lighting protection systems on your home or property in accordance with the national safety standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to protect your home or property from lightning strikes. Lighting protection systems do not decrease your risk of strikes. These systems shield your home, providing a direct path to ground for lightning current, preventing damage to your home while current flows through the system. Controlling the path of lightning discharge keeps you and your property safe from fire, explosions, and electrical surges that can result from lightning strikes.

There are several types of lighting protection:

  • Air terminals (lightning rods)
    Vertically mounted copper or aluminum rods mounted at regular intervals designed to intercept strikes.
  • Main conductors
    Aluminum or copper braided cables connecting air terminals to system components or grounds.
  • Grounds
    Two or more rods driven deep into the earth for diverting dangerous current from lightning strikes to the ground. Special installation may be necessary in shallow, sandy, or rocky soil.
  • Bonds
    Joins metallic roofing components and grounded building systems to the main conductor to prevent the jumping of lighting between objects.
  • Surge arrestors, suppressors, and protectors
    Installed at the electrical panel, surge suppressors prevent over-voltages from entering the electrical lines in your home. Arrestors, also installed at the panel, help protect heavy appliances and prevent fires at the panel entrance. Point of use surge protectors offer added protection for expensive items, such as home electronics and office equipment. All work best when used in conjunction with one another, and other lighting protection systems.
  • Tree protection
    Trees themselves do not offer lighting protection. In fact, unprotected trees could cause current to jump to a nearby home. However trees taller than your home and located within 10 feet of the structure can be outfitted with a lighting protection system.

Struck by the seriousness of lightning strikes? Rainbow International® is your shelter from the storm. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you recover from storm loss.

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