Public Urged to Assist with Lightning Research Project

In Support of Fire Prevention Week 2009, “Stay Fire Smart!  Don’t Get Burned!”

To participate, please click the Lightning Damage Survey.

Hartford, Conn., October 4, 2009In conjunction with Fire Prevention Week, the Lightning Safety Alliance (LSA) is sponsoring a research project to learn more about the ways that lightning enters and damages homes and buildings.  Packing up to 100 million volts of electricity and a force comparable to that of a small nuclear reactor, lightning has the power to rip through roofs, explode walls of brick and concrete and ignite deadly fires. The LSA is initiating the research project in an attempt to collect and analyze lightning data and is urging property owners, firefighters and insurance professionals to visit its web site at www.lightningsafetyalliance.org to submit information about lightning incidents, fires and damage to their homes.  The LSA plans to present its findings to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and its Technical Committee on Lightning Protection, which reviews information pertaining to the NFPA 780 Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems.

Lightning strikes can be direct or indirect.  A direct strike to a structure typically results in resistive heating, arcing and burning, which can cause catastrophic damage to the structure and its contents.  An indirect strike near a structure typically damages sensitive electronics and vulnerable building systems.  In these instances, the lightning current can enter a building from a tree, fence, light pole or other nearby object.  In addition, lightning can travel on underground power cables, telephone lines or metallic piping into a building.

Property owners should also be aware of lightning concerns surrounding a relatively new gas piping used to transmit fuel gas in homes, known as corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST), which has been found to be susceptible to damage from arcing by direct or nearby lightning strikes.  In some situations, lightning has created holes in the CSST, allowing gas to leak, which has resulted in home fires. On September 15, 2009, the NFPA announced the appointment of a task group to review the lightning-related technical issues affecting CSST in gas piping systems.  The task group will provide the NFPA Council with a review and analysis of the jurisdictional and technical issues relating to lightning and CSST in gas piping systems and identify the need for research, data and further committee action with regard to bonding, grounding and lightning protection.  

“The LSA’s research initiative will be helpful in identifying specific lightning related damage patterns that could lead to enhancements in lightning protection methods,” said John Kennelly, spokesman for the Lightning Safety Alliance (LSA), a nonprofit, non-stock, national league of lightning protection professionals and consumers dedicated to the promotion of lightning protection and safety.  “Lightning protection systems are critical in protecting our national infrastructure and various governmental agencies rely heavily on nationally recognized specifications for lightning protection.”

This sentiment is echoed by Mitchell Guthrie, former chair of the NFPA Technical Committee on Lightning Protection and current chair of the International Electrotechnical Commission Committee on Lightning Protection (IEC TC81).  “There is no doubt that implementing a properly designed lightning protection system significantly reduces the probability of damage from lightning to a tolerable level for any application,” added Guthrie.           


Hurricanes and tornadoes receive the news coverage, but lightning is the second leading cause of storm-related deaths, killing more people than tornadoes or hurricanes, topped only by flooding. In addition, thousands of properties are damaged or destroyed each year by lightning. A single bolt of lightning can generate heat in excess of 50,000 degrees F which can spark fires or cause surging through electrical circuitry. The average cost of a homeowner insurance claim from a lightning strike has more than doubled since 2004, rising to $5,321 in 2007, according to statistics from the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Packing up to 100 million volts of electricity, a lightning strike to an unprotected home or business can be disastrous, with lightning most often igniting roofs, sidewalls, framing and electrical wires.

"The good news is most personal injury and property damage caused by lightning can be prevented," says Leslie Chapman-Henderson, CEO and president of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. -- FLASH.

"Home and business owners needn't take their chances with lightning," explains Bud VanSickle, executive director of the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). "A professionally-installed lightning protection system which meets U.S. Safety Standards (LPI, NFPA and UL) will prevent lightning damage by providing a safe electrical path into the earth for lightning's destructive energy."

Lightning protection technology is a specialty discipline and expertise is required for system design and installation. Systems for homes and businesses should be installed by trained and experienced LPI-certified and UL-listed specialists. FLASH and LPI offer these safeguards for
property owners seeking a qualified lightning protection specialist:

-- Make sure materials and methods comply with nationally-recognized

-- Only an experienced and reputable UL-listed, LPI-certified lightning
protection contractors are qualified to install lightning protection systems.

-- Check references. A qualified specialist should provide a list of references and affiliation with industry groups such as NFPA, ULPA, LSA and LPI.

-- Ask about surge protection. Lightning-induced surges can damage electronics and appliances. A qualified lightning protection contractor can provide options for service entrance arresters and surge protection devices.

-- Experience counts. Be wary of start-up companies or contractors offering a "price deal" to install, fix or repair your lightning protection.

-- When in doubt, contact www.bbb.org to locate your local Better Business Bureau to obtain reliability report information on a contractor before you hire.

The nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes-FLASH®, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) collaboration of organizations dedicated to strengthening homes and safeguarding families from disaster. Based in Tallahassee, FLASH, is the nation's fastest-growing disaster safety education organization with more than 100 partners including FEMA, FL Division of Emergency Management, Georgia Pacific, The Home Depot, International Code Council, National Weather Service, Renaissance Reinsurance, Simpson Strong-Tie, State Farm, USAA and WeatherPredict Consulting, Inc. To learn more about FLASH and access free resources, visit www.flash.org call (877) 221-SAFE

The LPI is not-for-profit, nationwide group founded in 1955 to promote lightning safety, awareness and protection education. The organization provides a certification program to qualify competence in lightning protection installation, design and inspection. The LPI offers a list of certified contractors across the U.S. Visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org for more information about lightning protection.


Website designed and maintained by C3it.com