A Lesson in Lightning Safety: Prevent and Protect

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The summer months of June through August see the largest number of home fires caused by lightning strikes. How do you help protect your family and your home? We’ve compiled this primer on the risks of lightning and the precautions you can take.

Understand the Hazards

The main ways a lightning strike can damage your home:

1. Fire – Lightning-related fires often begin in the attic or roof of a house. The lightning will often have to pass through the roofing material before it reaches your home’s wiring or pipes.

2. Power Surge – This can occur when lightning passes through the electrical wiring and damages appliances.

3. Shock Wave – A shock wave caused by lightning can damage concrete, brick, cinder block and stone, as well as shatter glass and crack foundations.

Prep Before the Storm

Interior

Have a plan so family members know which electric devices to unplug and when. Unplug landline phones first, since a lightning striking a nearby telephone pole can send dangerous voltage into your home.

If your home has CSST piping, lightning may pass through its gas pipe system. Learn more about CSST piping and how to protect your home.

Exterior

Lightning often travels across the ground, so be sure to plant taller trees at a safe distance from your house. The Lightning Protection Institute recommends a professionally installed lightning protection system for trees that are taller than your home or are within 10 feet of your house. A lightning protection system provides a direct path to the ground for the lightning to follow.

What to Avoid

During a storm, reduce your chances of being injured by lightning indoors with these tips from the National Weather Service:

  • Water – Since lightning can travel through your home’s plumbing, don’t take a bath or shower, do laundry, wash dishes or any chore that involves water.
  • Electronics – Stay away from computers, washers, dryers, stoves or any other equipment connected to an electrical outlet. Lightning can travel through electrical systems, radio and television reception systems. Find out more about how to prevent electronic damage during power disruptions.
  • Corded phones – Use cordless or cell phones, rather than corded phones.
  • Concrete – Lightning can travel through wire or metal bars in concrete walls or flooring. Avoid toilets, sinks, faucets and other plumbing.
  • Windows and doors – Avoid glass structures, as well as garage doors.

 

Get more expert thunderstorm safety tips to protect your home from lightning-related damage from Nationwide.