There are few other weather events that draw both the awe and excitement of a thunder and lighting storm. It is part of the magic of summer in New Hampshire. While most storms pass without incident, the randomness of lighting can make anyone or anything vulnerable. Though little can be done to completely prevent a strike, there are actions that can be taken to reduce the extent of injury or property damage within a home or business.
The best way to prevent injury or property damage is to understand how lightning enters a building. According to the National Weather Service, lightning can enter a structure three ways:
- a direct strike,
- through electrical, phone, plumbing and radio/television reception systems, or
- through metal wires, bars, concrete walls or floors.
How to protect yourself and property if building hit directly by lightning:
If lightning directly strikes a building, it is very dangerous as the bolt can reach temperatures of up to 50,000 degrees. This heat can obviously put the building at risk for fire; however, it is not always immediately apparent. If the lightning causes a surge that travels through the wiring, it can slowly burn inside the walls. If a building is directly hit it is advised that everyone evacuate the building and call 911 so the fire department can properly assess the risk of fire.
How to protect your property as lightning travels through electrical, phone, plumbing and radio/tv reception systems:
- stay off electrical devices and corded phones during a storm,
- avoid plumbing including sinks, baths and faucet,
- unplug electrical devices if you are leaving for the day and there is a storm in the forecast or if you are going on vacation,
- never unplug electrical devices during a storm as there is a greater risk you could be shocked, and
- put bigger electronics, including computers, televisions, stereo systems and appliances on a surge protector.
How to protect yourself through metal wires and concrete floors and walls:
Though it would not be practical or possible to disconnect all wires leading into your home, think about the ones that may be leading to your home but no longer in use. A few years ago there was a home in the Milford area that burned to the ground as lightning struck a tree that had an invisible dog fence wire going over the root system. This surge traveled into the home from the dog fence wiring which caused a fire in the walls. This is not to imply that invisible dog fences cause fires, however any wire leading into a home can be a conduit for lightning. If you have a dog fence on your property, but it is not in current use, you should consider disconnecting the system just to reduce the chance of such an event happening.
If there is a lightning storm, avoid standing on a concrete floor or against a concrete wall. I have personally experienced what can happen when you do not head such advice. A few years ago, my husband and I were doing yard work on a hot August afternoon. We saw the clouds building but only when the storm was directly overhead did we seek shelter in our garage. We took off our shoes to cool off and enjoy the show of severe lightning in addition to downpour rains. Though exciting, we did not realize the danger. Lightning struck our driveway and traveled up the pooling water onto the concrete floor of the garage. Never had I seen such a flash or heard such a loud bang. Apart from ringing ears, pounding hearts and tingling throughout we were fine, however, I sincerely believe we were lucky. What if the lightning struck closer? What if we were sitting and not standing? These are questions I can not answer, but I do know that lightning can be conducted through concrete so precautions should be taken.
Lightning and your insurance
You may think that the probability of you, your home or business being struck by lightning is pretty slim, however according to the Insurance Information Institute, insurance companies paid out nearly $1 billion in homeowner lightning losses in 2013 alone. The average cost per claim was nearly $6,000. Most standard property policies include coverage for lightning damage so here are some tips to help your claim go smoothly:
- File the claim as soon as possible with your agent or company,
- Keep a record of all items that are damaged and be prepared to provide proof of ownership if requested,
- Test as many electronics as soon as possible after the strike because you may not notice an item was damaged right away. If a claim is closed and you then discover additional damage, it may be difficult to reopen the claim, and
- Do not discard any damaged items until the company claims adjuster indicates it is ok to do so.
Electrical storms can be wondrous, but try to keep the wonder in the event itself and not into how your insurance claim will be settled. Stay safe and enjoy the summer!
This material is for informational purposes only. All statements herein are subject to the provision, exclusions and conditions of the applicable policy. For an actual description of all coverages, terms and conditions, refer to the insurance policy.