Did you know that lightning strikes are becoming more frequent? Climate change and increased use of electrical technology mean lightning strikes are becoming an increasing concern to tall buildings and exposed structures.
Electricity gradually builds up during a thunderstorm and once it has enough energy, a giant spark occurs (like static electricity) this can happen between clouds and air, and often it is routed through the ground in the form of a lightning strike.
What is Lightning Protection?
Lightning looks for the quickest route to the ground, and often this can mean it strikes buildings in its hunt for the path of least resistance. This can pose serious danger if the spark occurs near exposed gas or electricity infrastructure.
Many tall buildings; such as churches and skyscrapers, have lightning protection conductors installed, to avoid significant damage and danger should a lightning strike occur.
Lightning conductors are not usually installed on homes, as the likelihood of lightning striking houses is relatively low, but it can happen. If your home is exposed or in an area that frequently experiences thunder and lightning storms however, it could be worthwhile investing in lightning protection to avoid any damage.
How Does It Work?
Lightning conductors (also known as lightning arrestor’s, lightning diverters, lightning rods or cables.) are a type of Lightning Protection System. Lightning conductors and special earthing equipment ensure that electrical currents are routed to the ground via a path of least resistance, thereby preventing damage to the building.
Usually made out of conductive materials such as copper and aluminium, lightning protection systems are usually installed on the outside of a building or structure to help prevent power surges.
Lightning protection cables and equipment will need to be replaced every so often, depending on the amount of wear and tear placed on them over time.
Lightning Protection Law In The UK
Lightning causes millions of pounds worth of damage and hundreds of injuries across the world each year, both as a direct result of lightning strikes and from the resulting electrical surges.
Compliance with UK legislation requires that a risk assessment be carried out on the premises first of all (in accordance with BS6651 and BSEN:62305).
The risk assessment is a visual inspection and helps to determine the likelihood of lightning striking a building, and the potential dangers this poses. The building is then given a category depending on how high the risk of hazard is to life and the potential damage to physical structures.
Lightning Protection Systems have different categories depending on the type of building they are due to be installed on. The Lightning Protection System on a building must be the same grade as the Lightning Protection Level. For example, if the threat level is one, the lightning protection system must be 1 or higher to be within the legal requirements.
The potential thermal and explosive effects of a building are taken into consideration in both internal and external Lightning Protection Systems. An external system must have all three requirements: an air termination system, a down conductor system and an earth termination system in accordance with BS EN/IEC 62305 codes.
Penalties For Non-Compliance
Although it is not a legal requirement for all buildings and structures to have lightning protection, it is mandatory to have a risk assessment done annually to ensure that all LP systems meet statutory compliance. The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 apply to businesses in the UK, and Lightning Protection Systems that do no meet the current standard pose a serious risk of injury and potential loss of life.
Structures Most Likely to Be Struck by Lightning
Parts of a structure most likely to be struck by lightning are those that protrude from the surrounding structure.
Some examples of common structures likely to be struck by lightning:
●Elevated Water Tanks;
●Radio, Television, Mobile Phone and Microwave masts.
How Does Lightning Testing Work?
Your lightning protection system should be tested no more than 12 months apart. However, it is highly recommended that your system is tested throughout the year to ensure it can withstand the elements of all seasons.
A properly maintained lightning system will last for many years and will ensure your building is protected from lightning strikes and the consequent power surges.
What Do Lightning Tests Or Recommendations Involve?
●Inspection of current lightning conductors including joints and parts of the system
●Continuity testing across the whole lightning protection system
●Earth resistance testing on individual electrodes and the complete system
●Reports on the condition of the system
●Recommendations of required repairs, with reliable estimates included
A lightning protection test is a great opportunity to understand if your building is at risk to lightning, or if your lightning protection system requires servicing and maintenance to be deemed safe and in good working condition.
Lightning Damage Insurance
Although lightning striking houses and phone lines is quite rare, it definitely happens. Insurance policies can vary depending on the company and level of cover you have.
Most insurance providers do include damage caused to property and possessions by lightning in their policy, but it is certainly worth looking into it to be absolutely sure.
Many lightning protection companies offer insurance and warranty on lightning protection systems, so it is worth checking whether this is included when deciding on a company to install lightning protection on your building.
How To Protect Your Home From Lightning Damage
lightning strikes your house or nearby power lines, it can follow the wiring or phone lines and cause a power surge to the circuits in your home. This can ruin TV’s, stereos and anything else plugged into the mains. To avoid your gadgets being “fried” by lightning, unplug them during a thunderstorm and disconnect internet, antenna and satellite-dish connections, even if they are grounded.
Invest In Surge Protectors
These are electrical devices which you plug your appliances. These are very low cost, considering the possible impact of lightning damage is potentially hundreds of pounds. Surge protectors are most effective for indirect lightning strikes (such as to powerlines and the electrical grid) but in serious cases where lightning directly strikes a building which is far more drastic and dangerous, surge protection is not likely to be of much use.
Myths Around Lightning Protection
Do Lightning Protection Systems Attract Lightning?
Many people think lightning protection systems attract lightning. This is simply not the case. A lightning protection system doesn’t attract lightning or dilute the power of a storm, nor does it act as a building surge protector that means all electronics will be protected. It works to protect the building from fire or serious structural damage in the event it is struck by lightning.
Lightning Can’t Strike The Same Place Twice
This is another myth surrounding lightning that is untrue. Thunder and lightning storms usually travel through an area quickly, and once it has struck one place the likelihood of it striking again is lower, but it is certainly still a possibility. Exposed objects that are effective electrical conductors are usually prime targets for lightning to strike twice, as they provide the path of least resistance for lightning to reach the earth.
You Are Safer Outdoors
This is also incorrect. During a lightning storm, you are not safe anywhere outdoors. Ensure you get under a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle. Avoid touching anything electronic plugged into the mains and certainly avoid roofs!
If you need reliable lightning protection for commercial, domestic or any other type of building, get in touch with Rodell’s today. We have a wealth of industry experience offering lightning protection services; including design, testing and inspection. We have provided safe and reliable lightning protection to schools, churches, colleges, commercial, domestic buildings and many more, so no matter what building type, we can help plan a solution that works for you.
Here in the UK, we’re blessed with relatively calm weather. However, while we might not be subjected to hurricanes or tornadoes, we do get our fair share of electrical storms. On average, the UK and its surrounding waters are hit by around 300,000 lightning strikes every year, and while these powerful displays of nature are stunning to watch, they also pose significant risk to both people and structures.
While the dangers of being struck by lightning are exceedingly low, buildings can be put at risk, which can also endanger those inside. With this in mind, you may be wondering what your responsibilities are when it comes to protecting your premises against the threat of a lightning strike. As lightning protection experts, we at Rodell’s decided to demystify the process and give you the lowdown on what you need to do.
Complying with the law
As a country with a much lower risk of lightning strikes in comparison to other countries around the world, the UK doesn’t actually have laws specifying lightning protection all for buildings and structures. However, what it does have is a set of rules under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 that applies to businesses.
Specifically focusing on BS EN/IEC 62305, businesses are required to ensure that electrical installations and the business premises itself are protected from lightning strikes.
What is required?
Under the regulations, there are four ‘lightning protection levels’ known as LPLs. These LPLs focus on the protection of four different aspects of a business, ranging from S1 to S4. S1 focuses on protecting strikes to the structure itself, S2 for strikes near the structure, and S3 and S4 are focused more around services connected to the main structure, such as warehouses and parking spaces.
In order to remain compliant with BS EN/IEC 62305, a company must have an inspection carried out by a licenced professional and invest in lightning mitigation installations such as surge protection to keep your electronic equipment safe and lightning rods to ground your building.
What are the penalties?
As lightning protection falls under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, it is essential to ensure that you remain on the right side of the law. If you are found to be ignoring these regulations or if someone is injured due to your business not having adequate protection, you could find yourself in extremely hot legal hot water. With this in mind, it’s essential to make sure you’re compliant.
Protect your business from lightning strikes with Rodell’s
Lightning strikes are powerful yet dangerous displays of nature, which is why you should ensure your business is properly protected. As suppliers of quality lightning protection solutions, from lightning rods to comprehensive inspections, our team will ensure you’re compliant to regulations.
For more information, visit our website or get in touch with our team on 01727 841855.