By Bill Tricarico
Senior Risk Management Consultant
McNeil & Company, Inc.
Spring is here and along with warmer weather and blooming flowers come thunder and lightning storms. Lightning is extremely dangerous; it kills nearly 100 people each year and injures many more. The cost of insurance claims for lightning strikes has nearly doubled since 2004 reaching nearly $1 billion per year. In that same period of time the number of lightning strike claims has reduced by 33% meaning the average cost of each claim has risen by nearly 93%.
The reason for this is the increase of equipment susceptible to power surges secondary to lightning strikes. Computers and other business machines are especially vulnerable. A lightning strike is capable of creating a burst of high voltage that can literally melt the insulation protecting a computer’s hardware, destroying the pow-er supply or even burning out the hard drive itself, which houses all of your important data and programs that may be impossible to recover. In addition there are other typical other items found in a typical emergency service station such as flat screen televisions, gaming consoles, personal laptops, etc., making lightning protection an important part of the building’s overall safety system.
The basic lightning protection theory is to provide a means by which a lightning discharge can enter the earth, without causing injury to people or damage to property. Therefore the system must intercept the lightning before it strikes an object and discharge it into the earth without causing harm.
As a result of inherent exposures to lightning strikes and subsequent damages, it is recommended that fundamental lightning protection systems be professionally in-stalled and maintained on all buildings and structures that:
- Have experienced previous lightning damage
- Are located in areas of known high thunderstorm frequency
- Are occupied by hazardous or sensitive storage or operations
- Present a life safety exposure
- Have the potential to experience a large property loss or service interruption if struck
- Contain or are physically connected to sensitive electronic equipment
All lightning protection systems and equipment should be in accordance with NFPA Standard 780, “Standard for Lightning Protection Systems” and NFPA 70 “National Electric Code.” A great source of information regarding lightning pro-tection is the Lightning Protection Institute. This information may be accessed at their website, www.lightning.org.