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Lightning Protection

Lightning strikes in the U.S. about 25 million times each year. In addition to being a safety hazard for workers and the public, lightning is a serious hazard to property. According to Underwriters Laboratories (UL), lightning causes about $1 billion in structural damage each year, which does not include indirect costs, such as lost production during power loss or damage to communication lines. Having a properly installed lightning protection system can help protect businesses.

What is a lightning protection system?
Lightning protection systems are installed on many commercial buildings throughout the U.S. They work by directing the charged current from a lightning strike safely into the ground. Contrary to popular belief, these systems do not attract lightning; they simply intercept a strike and redirect the harmful electricity.

Does my building need a lightning protection system?
Several risk factors determine the need for a lightning protection system, including location, thunderstorm frequency, soil composition, and building occupancy. Lightning strikes, however, can occur almost anywhere. This means that most buildings are at risk.

Lightning can enter a building in several ways, including through a direct strike, a wire or pipe, or from the ground. Once inside the structure, lightning can travel through electrical, plumbing, or gas systems. Lightning protection systems not only protect from a direct strike but also components inside the building that may be vulnerable to an indirect current.

Who can install lightning protection?
It is very important that an experienced, certified lightning protection contractor install the system. These specialists will make sure that the installation method complies with nationally recognized standards, such as National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 780, UL 96A, and Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) 175.

Is regular maintenance needed for lightning protection systems?
The standards (as noted above) recommend periodic inspection of lightning systems. This is especially important if changes have been made to the structure of a building: roof work, electrical systems, HVAC alterations, etc. In addition, maintenance may be needed if cable or telephone systems have been recently serviced. A certified specialist familiar with lightning protection systems should perform this maintenance.

Additional Resources
Lightning Protection Institute (LPI)
Underwriters Laboratory (UL)
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

References
Kim Loehr (Lightning Protection Institute). (2006). Limit Losses: Make Your Facility Lightning Safe. Facility Safety Management.
Lightning Protection Institute. (2018). How to Protect Your Commercial Property From Lightning Damage. Retrieved from www.lightning.org: http://lightning.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/lpi-brochure-commercial.pdf
Lightning Protection Institute. (2019). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from Lightning Protection Institute: https://lightning.org/learn-more/faq/
National Weather Service. (2019). Lightning Safety Tips and Resources. Retrieved from National Weather Service Web site: https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning

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