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Protecting Your Property from Lightning Damage


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  • Lightning can cause fire damage to your home of business in an instant. When you need fire damage repair call SERVPRO for fire damage cleanup, repair, and construction.

    Lightning is a fascinating weather phenomenon, but how does it work? And how can you protect your property against it? We’re Here to Help® ensure you adequately protect your home, business, or other property anytime a severe storm is on the horizon. Whether you need assistance with storm damage cleanup, fire damage restoration, or more, SERVPRO® is always available, with 24-hour emergency services.

    What is Lightning?

    As NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory states, lightning is defined as “a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds, the air, or the ground.”

    When lightning first develops, there are both positive and negative charges in the clouds, and positive and negative charges between the clouds and the ground. The air acts as an insulator. When opposite charges build to a sufficient level, this “insulation” breaks down, and there is a sudden discharge of electricity, known as lightning.

    While lightning is often associated with thunderstorms, it can occur and has been observed in volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, and even snowstorms.

    Can Lightning Damage Property?

    Not only can lightning damage property, but it can threaten your safety even when you’re inside. According to American Family Insurance, lightning strikes “can cause fires inside or outside your home, ruin expensive appliances and electronics, damage wiring in the walls, and potentially shock and injure you or someone in your household.” Additionally, lightning can down trees, damage fencing, roofs, and other outdoor possessions.

    Mutual Assurance states that lightning can enter properties through underground streams and water pipes. Furthermore, concrete can conduct electricity (which is why you shouldn’t stand, sit, or place electronics or appliances on concrete during a storm).

    Lightning can also damage your property through metal or aluminum windows. Additionally, wiring may ignite, especially if lighting is conducted through gutters, windows, or concrete. There is also a risk of shock waves. As Mutual Assurance notes, shock waves “can cause structural degradation and cracking in concrete, brick, cinderblock, and stone, depending on their intensity and proximity.” Brick and stone chimneys are especially vulnerable.

    How to Protect Your Property from Lightning Damage

    While not all-encompassing, Progressive Insurance, American Family Insurance, and Zurich American Insurance Company provide tips to minimize your home or commercial business from lightning damage:

    • Unplug appliances. This may include TVs, computers, modems, cable lines, phone lines, and other equipment.
    • Install whole-home surge protectors and have battery backup in case you lose power.
    • Utilize point-of-use surge protectors for specific devices you want to protect.
    • Verify smoke detectors are active and working.
    • Have fire extinguishers on hand.
    • Hire a professional to install a lightning protection system. This is also known as “grounding your house for lightning.” This might include the use of lightning rods, surge suppressors, and/or conductors.
    • Consider installing a visual or audio signal in your business to alert customers and employees of imminent lightning and storms.
    • Remove flammable items like propane tanks from the property (or at minimum, 100 feet away).

    Additionally, for any type of disaster, we recommend developing a SERVPRO Emergency Ready Plan.

    What is the “30 30” Rule for Lightning?

    FEMA outlines the “30 30” rule for lightning and thunderstorm safety:

    • If you are outside and see lightning, and you can’t count to 30 before hearing the next clap of thunder, go inside immediately. (If possible, you should be inside before the 30-second “timer” is up.)
    • Stay inside 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder.

    Ultimately, when in doubt, it is safest to stay indoors during a thunderstorm. That is why it is so important to make sure you take preventative measures beforehand, so you are not caught outside when the storm arrives.

    SERVPRO Offers 24-Hour Emergency Services for Fire Damage Cleanup After Lightning

    Lightning can certainly be cool to look at, but the reality is that it can cause major damage to properties, including fires. No matter the extent of fire damage to your home, business, or other property, SERVPRO is here to help. Whether you need cleanup and restoration services in a single room, or significant remediation in an entire home or business, including reconstruction, SERVPRO is available anytime. With 2250 SERVPRO locations in the United States and Canada, there is a franchise nearby, here to help with 24-hour emergency services.

    SERVPRO professionals are equipped with a wide range of proprietary chemicals and equipment, arriving to each job prepared to assist with smoke and soot removal, grease fire cleanup, deodorization, and more. Whether your home, business, or other property was struck by lightning, or you wish to take proactive measures in advance of a storm, such as roof tarping or board-up, SERVPRO is here to help with this and more.

    To learn more about SERVPRO and the cleanup and restoration industry, visit our FAQ and Glossary.

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