National Lightning Safety Awareness Week in the US
A lightning strike to an unprotected structure can be disastrous. Packing up to 100 million volts of electricity and a force comparable to that of a small nuclear reactor, lightning has the power to rip through roofs, explode walls of brick and concrete and ignite fires. Statistics from the Insurance Information Institute show that commercial losses due to lightning strikes reach $5-6 billion each year.
Between 22nd and 28th of June the Lightning Safety Alliance is attempting to raise awareness of the importance of protecting businesses against lightning through the National Lightning Safety Awareness Week.
"Lightning protection systems are critical in protecting our national infrastructure and various governmental agencies rely heavily on nationally recognised specifications for lightning protection," said John Kennelly, spokesman for the Lightning Safety Alliance. This sentiment is echoed by Mitchell Guthrie, chair of the NFPA Committee on Lightning Protection and Technical Advisor for the US National Committee Advisory Group to IEC TC 81 (Lightning Protection). "There is no doubt that implementing a properly designed lightning protection system significantly reduces the probability of damage from lightning."
In Florida, the so-called Lightning Capital of the US, state building codes already mandate the installation of lightning protection systems for both hospitals and educational facilities. Lightning protection is also routinely installed on correctional facilities, EMS buildings, hotels and telecommunication structures in Florida. Newly enacted Florida Building Codes contain expanded requirements for lightning protection, which cover not only hospitals but also outpatient, ambulatory and extended-care facilities.
The decision to provide lightning protection should be based on a thorough risk assessment. Examples of factors that need to be taken into account are physical and geographic location, cultural and historic value, building contents and occupancy.