A Guide to Lightning Protection Systems: What Every Commercial Property Owner Needs to Know
Every year its estimated 2,000 thunderstorms occur globally at any one time producing up to 100 lightning strikes per second. Each of these lightning strikes carries 100,000 volts or more sparking significant damage, even kilometres away from the point of impact. And whilst there’s definitely a few storm lovers out there; this enormous electrical discharge we know as lightning is not only spectacular, it can be extremely dangerous.
As an underrated disaster educating yourself about the damage lightning can bring to properties and individuals is important – especially as a commercial property owner. Lightning claims are costing property owners nearly $800 million worth of damage a year and gaining good risk management has never been so crucial. Lightning protection systems have become an important part of keeping homes, businesses and people safe. Here’s everything you need to know to keep your commercial property protected.
1. Super Risk Management
From a commercial property owner’s perspective, the damage caused by lightning can be huge. According to the Insurance Information Institute, lightning strikes can cost more than $1 billion in insured losses from damage to expensive electronic equipment to structural fires caused by the lightning strike that destroys entire homes and commercial properties.
Whilst there’s business insurance covers that should be in place for such damage, all commercial property owners should take additional steps to minimise any kinds of damage or loss that may occur due to a lightning hit. The safe installation of lightning protection systems is one of the most effective ways to do this.
As lightning strikes a property, the material damage of the powerful bolt can cause extensive harm to the structure which can lead to building collapses and fires. Electrical equipment and wiring in the property are especially at risk and pose a real threat to igniting fires as the surges cause the energy to jump around. As the electronic circuitry in buildings becomes denser and more interconnected, home and business owners are becoming more vulnerable to damage caused by lightning and power surges. Combined with business and lightning insurance, lightning protection systems can reduce the risks expressively.
2. What are Lightning Protection Systems?
Specifically designed to protect your commercial property from damage caused by a lightning strike, lightning protection systems provide a safe passing of the electrical current to the ground. When lightning strikes an unprotected structure, the damage that can be caused to the property or anyone in the building can be catastrophic.
Lightning protection systems work by a network of low resistance paths to safely take the dangerous electricity from the strike and direct it to the earth without impact to the structure or its occupants. They consist of rods or air terminals for the discharge, conductor cables that carry the current to the ground and ground rods which are buried into the earth around a protected structure – all bonded together.
Because of their vital role in the distribution of the electrical current, they are paramount in protecting people and properties from the worst effects of lightning by preventing or lessening the strike damage to structures. Whilst no protection system can guarantee 100% safety from lightning, a basic system can offer a conductive path between an air terminal and the earth, reducing the effects of the travelling current.
3. Business Insurance
Almost all business insurance policies will cover commercial property damage from lightning related incidents – including fire damage as a result from a lightning strike. Only some business insurances will provide coverage for power surges set of by a lightning strike though, so it’s essential you check what limitations there are in your lightning policy.
Because of the costly damage that can result from lightning strikes, it’s imperative to look into the best cover for your commercial property. Whilst it’s a vital safety consideration for the property and residents in it, it’s also an essential risk management so minimise business losses.
According to information released by the Herald Sun last year, Darwin is one of Australia’s hotspots for lightning strikes – but it still pays to have lightning protection regardless of the location you’re in as their power and potential damage is extraordinary.
4. How Safe is Your Property in a Lightning Storm?
On average 100 incidents a year are fatal from people being struck by lightning – but just how safe is your property during a lightning storm? Each year lightning is notorious for injuring people, killing livestock and billions of dollars in destruction to buildings, power lines, communication systems and electrical equipment, just to name a few.
As the high-voltage electricity is discharges, electrical storms become a massive risk. A strike to your property can kill all the electrics in your home, blast a hole through the property or start a fire. Properties with overgrown trees around can be at a higher risk too as the sap in trees are a natural lightning conductor.
5. Protecting Your Home and Business
To effectively protect your home or commercial property, you need to work with a lightning protection supplier who complies with the strict Australian and New Zealand Standard for Lighting Protection Act AS1768. This is the standard of lightning protection in Australia and New Zealand that comes with a comprehensive risk assessment section and best practices that should be used when designing a lightning protection system and should be used in commercial applications.
As more property owners consider the investment in lightning protection, it’s absolutely essential to contract only with qualified and experienced specialists who are trained specifically to install such systems in accordance with the nationally recognised safety standards. By using a certified lightning protection system along with adequate business insurance, lives and money can be better saved and property damage eliminated. How safe is your home or commercial business property?
Ray Loh is the General Manager of Perth, WA based West Australian Power Protection dedicated to offering earthing, surge and lightning protection products aligned with the latest safety standards.
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