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Protecting Your Home From Lighting.

Lightning strikes can be a threat to both property and public safety, causing nearly $1 billion in property damage in the United States each year and claiming dozens of lives.

Lightning strikes homes

Although summer is the most likely time for lightning, it can strike anytime there is a thunderstorm. Lightning generates intense heat that can surge through electronic circuits, burn through plumbing and set structures ablaze, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

In 2014, lightning strikes cost $739 million in homeowners’ insurance losses, up 9.7 percent from 2013. The average lightning property damage claim by homeowners was $7,400 in 2014, up 26 percent from 2013. Florida saw the most homeowner insurance lightning claims in 2014, followed by Georgia and Texas, according to III.

To help prevent lightning from damaging your property, consider using a lightning protection system. These systems are designed to redirect lightning from high points on structures and guide the electrical currents safely to the ground along metal conductors.

You should consider a lightning protection system if:

  • Your home or structure already has experienced a lightning strike.
  • You live in an area that often has thunderstorms.
  • Your structure is located on higher ground or projects above surrounding properties.
  • Your structure contains sensitive electrical equipment. According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, most homes today have from $5,000 to as much as $500,000 worth of electrical and electronic equipment inside.

Lightning protection systems should be installed by certified specialists who work within the guidelines of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 780 “Standard for Lightning Protection Systems” and the NFPA 70 “National Electric Code.” UL offers a Master Label® certificate as evidence that a lightning protection system is installed in compliance with applicable nationally recognized standards.

The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) recommends that the contractor you hire is listed with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and holds certification with LPI. You can view a list of certified contractors at the LPI website. There is also an online directory for UL Listed lightning protection system installers.

In addition to a lightning protection system, there are other ways to further improve your protection. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) recommends having a licensed electrician inspect your telephone, power, electrical and cable/satellite television connections, and ensure your power line connection and power distribution panel are grounded correctly.

Tips for Staying Safe During a Thunderstorm

Since most lightning strikes occur during a thunderstorm, you should take the recommended steps to keep safe. Until the storm has passed, stay away from windows and doors and avoid handling faucets or other plumbing, and do not touch electrical appliances or equipment.

If your home is struck by lightning and you have corrugated stainless steel natural gas tubing present (CSST), there is the potential for the lightning strike to produce gas leaks in the CSST. If there is no smoke, fire or imminent danger from the lightning strike, you should shut off the gas supply and contact the gas company to have them check the piping for leaks.

If someone is struck or otherwise injured by lightning, seek medical help immediately.

If your structure is struck by lightning, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration advises the following recommended steps:

  • Evacuate if you see fire or smoke and telephone 911.
  • Ask firefighters to use thermal imaging equipment to check for hot spots inside walls.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors are working.
  • Have a licensed electrician check your structure’s wiring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Protecting Your Home From Lighting” Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent. Travelers Insurance. 17 August 2017. 

Prepare For The Storm.

Trim trees. Flying branches and falling trees are some of the most common — and expensive — causes of damage during hurricane season. And you may get stuck with a big chunk of the bill. Your homeowners insurance policy will generally cover damage to your home caused by trees, but it usually pays no more than $500 to $1,000 for tree removal, even though it can cost a few thousand dollars to clean up a fallen tree (see When a Tree Falls in Your Neighbor’s Yard for more information about insurance and fallen trees). Bob Welther, assistant vice-president of the risk consulting group for insurer ACE Private Risk Services, recommends having an arborist come out each spring to inspect the trees near your home to identify any branches that could come crashing down.

Clean gutters and waterproof your house. Remove leaves and other debris from your gutters, which can clog them and send water pouring down the side of your house or under the roof. And check for cracks that could let water into your house. Welther recommends that you inspect your roof and make sure none of the shingles or tiles are damaged and that the vents are all sealed so wind-driven rain won’t enter your house.

Get a backup sump pump. Last week’s rains reminded people how important it can be to have a good sump pump, especially if you have a finished basement. If your sump pump stops working or gets overloaded, the water could pour into your house — and the damage may not be covered by insurance (see below). Have a battery backup for your sump pump, in case the electricity goes out. Even better, says Welther, is to add a battery-powered sump pump as a second pump, which gives you twice the capacity.

Secure your yard. The grading of your yard can determine whether storm water runs away from your home or into it. Damage from water that seeps through your walls or floors may not be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Also, secure lawn furniture and other outdoor items before a storm arrives, so strong winds don’t turn them into projectiles.

Consider installing storm shutters. Storm shutters can do a lot to protect your home from hurricanes and other big storms. You’ll need time to buy them and have them installed, so don’t wait until the last minute. Contact your homeowners insurer first to see what kind of shutters you would need to qualify for a discount on your premiums. Also see Protect Your Home in a FLASH, from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, for other home improvements that can protect your home from hurricanes, and you can get other ideas by entering your zip code at DisasterSafety.org for a list of common risks in your area and advice to help you protect your home.

Prepare a disaster kit. Put together an emergency kit that can help if you lose electricity during a storm. It should consist of a battery-operated radio (and extra batteries), flashlights and a landline phone that isn’t cordless (so you don’t depend on power from your electric utility). Keep some extra cash in case ATMs are on the blink for a while, and keep a phone charger in your car. The Red Cross also recommends stocking a three-day supply of food and water for everyone in your house, a first-aid kit and a seven-day supply of medications. See 7 Must-Haves for Your Emergency Kit and the Red Cross Store for pre-made emergency kits. Also see FEMA’s fact sheet on building a disaster-supplies kit.

Prepare a “go kit.” Put together a box or file that you can grab quickly if evacuated, including your insurance policies, contact information for your insurance company, agent and other emergency contacts, your home inventory, extra keys, powers of attorney, and other important financial and personal records, says Welther.

Consider a generator. Keeping the electricity running during a power outage can also help protect your home — by powering your alarm system, sump pump and air conditioning. You may even get a 5% discount on your homeowners insurance if you install an automatic standby generator, which runs on natural gas or propane and turns on automatically after detecting a power outage. See The Costs, Benefits of a Generator for more information.

Get coverage for sewage backups. It isn’t unusual for heavy rains to overburden the storm water system or for your sump pump to stop working during storm season, causing water or sewage to back up into your house. The damage can be smelly and expensive, especially if you have a finished basement. Sewage-backup coverage isn’t included in most homeowners policies, but you can generally buy a rider that costs about $50 to $75 to provide $10,000 to $20,000 of sewage-backup coverage (ACE and some other high-end insurers do cover sewage backup with their standard policies). Ask your agent or insurer whether you’re covered.

 

Make sure you have the right amount of insurance. Let your insurance company know about any home improvements that affect the cost to rebuild your home. Some insurers send an appraiser to your house to help estimate the replacement cost of your home; other agents or insurers will accept detailed information about the upgrades over the phone. You can also get an estimate of rebuilding costs at AccuCoverage.com (the service costs $7.95). See Check Up on Your Home Insurance for more information. You can also get advice from the Insurance Information Institute, at www.iii.org.

 

 

 

KIMBERLY LANKFORD. 12 Ways To Prepare For Storm Season. Web blog post. Insurance. Kiplinger. 5 May 2014. 15 August 2017

Lightning Myths and Facts

Lightning Myths and Facts

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Myth: If you’re caught outside during a thunderstorm, you should crouch down to reduce your risk of being struck.
Fact: Crouching doesn’t make you any safer outdoors. Run to a substantial building or hard topped vehicle. If you are too far to run to one of these options, you have no good alternative. You are NOT safe anywhere outdoors. See our safety page for tips that may slightly reduce your risk.

Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit an average of 23 times a year

Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.

Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.
Fact: Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. Don’t lean on doors during a thunderstorm.

Myth: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch them, you’ll be electrocuted.
Fact: The human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid. This is the most chilling of lightning Myths. Imagine if someone died because people were afraid to give CPR!

Myth: If outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry.
Fact: Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties. Better to get wet than fried!

Myth: If you are in a house, you are 100% safe from lightning.
Fact: A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows. Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter and second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.

Myth: If thunderstorms threaten while you are outside playing a game, it is okay to finish it before seeking shelter.
Fact: Many lightning casualties occur because people do not seek shelter soon enough. No game is worth death or life-long injuries. Seek proper shelter immediately if you hear thunder. Adults are responsible for the safety of children.

Myth: Structures with metal, or metal on the body (jewelry, cell phones,Mp3 players, watches, etc), attract lightning.
Fact: Height, pointy shape, and isolation are the dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt will strike. The presence of metal makes absolutely no difference on where lightning strikes. Mountains are made of stone but get struck by lightning many times a year. When lightning threatens, take proper protective action immediately by seeking a safe shelter – don’t waste time removing metal. While metal does not attract lightning, it does conduct it so stay away from metal fences, railing, bleachers, etc.

Myth: If trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, I should lie flat on the ground.
Fact: Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you keep moving toward a safe shelter.

Myth: lightning flashes are 3-4 km apart
Fact: Old data said successive flashes were on the order of 3-4 km apart. New data shows half the flashes are about 9 km apart. The National Severe Storms Laboratory report concludes: “It appears the safety rules need to be modified to increase the distance from a previous flash which can be considered to be relatively safe, to at least 10 to 13 km (6 to 8 miles). In the past, 3 to 5 km (2-3 miles) was as used in lightning safety education.” Source: Separation Between Successive Lightning Flashes in Different Storms Systems: 1998, Lopez & Holle, from Proceedings 1998 Intl Lightning Detection Conference, Tucson AZ, November 1998.

Myth: A High Percentage of Lightning Flashes Are Forked.
Fact: Many cloud-to-ground lightning flashes have forked or multiple attachment points to earth. Tests carried out in the US and Japan verify this finding in at least half of negative flashes and more than 70% of positive flashes. Many lightning detectors cannot acquire accurate information about these multiple ground lightning attachments. Source: Termination of Multiple Stroke Flashes Observed by Electro- Magnetic Field: 1998, Ishii, et al. Proceedings 1998 Int’l Lightning Protection Conference, Birmingham UK, Sept. 1998.

Myth: Lightning Can Spread out Some 60 Feet After Striking Earth.
Fact: Radial horizontal arcing has been measured at least 20 m. from the point where lightning hits ground. Depending on soils characteristics, safe conditions for people and equipment near lightning termination points (ground rods) may need to be re-evaluated. Source: 1993 Triggered Lightning Test Program: Environments Within 20 meters of the Lightning Channel and Small Are Temporary Protection Concepts: 1993, SAND94-0311, Sandia Natl Lab, Albuquerque NM.

 

 

 

 

“Lightning Myths and Facts” Web blog post. Lightning Safety. National Weather Service.  26 June 2017. 

The Dangers of Lighting.

What is lightning? Lightning is the flash of light produced by a discharge of atmospheric electricity that occurs within clouds, between clouds or between clouds and the ground. The spark can reach over five miles (eight kilometers) in length, raise the temperature of the air by as much as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit (27,700 degrees Celsius), and contain a hundred million electrical volts. The rapid expansion of heated air causes the thunder. Since light travels faster than sound, the thunder is heard after the lightning. If you see successive strokes of lightning in the same place on the horizon then you are in line with the storm, and it may be moving toward you.

lightning strikes on beach

Facts & Statistics: More than 200,000  lightning damage claims are filed each year with insurance companies.  One out of every 200 homes get struck by lightning each year. Lightning starts about 4,400 house fires each year. A bolt of lightning can reach temperatures up to 50,000 degrees, which is 5x hotter than the surface of the sun. The chances of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000. Lightning can cause cardiac arrest or even death. Injuries from lightning range from severe burns and permanent brain damage to memory loss and personality change. About 10%  of lightning-strike victims are killed, and 70% suffer serious long-term effects. About 400 people survive lightning strokes in the U.S. each year. Lightning is not confined to thunderstorms. It’s been seen in large hurricanes, extremely intense forest fires, volcanic eruptions, surface nuclear detonations, and in heavy snowstorms.

Safety tips:lightning strikes watre

  • Lightning rods can help protect a building from catching fire, although, they are not 100 percent effective, they do not protect against power surges.
  • Do not use the telephone, electrical wires may be hit by lightning. Even using a cellular phone is hazardous because the metal parts can conduct lightning. Most people hurt by lightning while inside their homes are on the telephone.
  • A motor car with a metal top can offer you some protection—but keep your hands from the metal sides.
  • Victims of lightning do not retain the charge and are not “electrified.” It is safe to help them.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
  • If outdoors do not stand underneath or near a tree
  • Whether inside or outside do not be in or near a water source.

Lightning can enter your home in three main ways: (1) a direct strike, (2) through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure, and (3) the ground.  Once the lightning has entered your home it can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio or television reception systems.  Lightning can ruin your electrical system in your home and it can also cause a fire. The fire could very well start within the walls so you may not notice it until it’s too late. You should call 911 immediately after your home is struck by lightning. The fire department handles all lightning calls and they are equipped with thermal imaging cameras to locate a possible fire burning in your home. They also will be able to survey the damages and let you and your family know when it is deemed safe to enter again.

 

What if lightning strikes your home ?  After you have gotten everyone out safely and the fire department has assessed your home you may be left with damages. A standard home owner’s insurance policy should cover damages caused by lightning, including fires and fried electronics. Below are some tips you can use that will help get your home back in order:

  • Keep detailed records of all big-ticket purchases such as TVs, laptops and other lightning strikes homeexpensive electronics. The insurance company will want to see proof of ownership.
  • Report a lightning strike to your agent as soon as possible.
  • Check with your claim representative before you discard any items you plan to claim as damaged.
  • Keep accurate records of how much you spend repairing or replacing items.
  • Review your policy for specific coverage information.

Lightning’s destruction can be random. In some instances your computer could be fried yet your T.V. still works. You should check all electrical equipment that was plugged in during the time when the lightning struck to inspect for damage. If lightning causes fire in your home you will need a professional to restore your home. Call PRS at 727-NO-WATER. They have the technology, the experience, and are available 24/7.  PRS is equipped to handle fire and smoke damage as well as any other disaster your home may encounter.

 

Larry West. “Why Is Lighting Dangerous?” Web blog post. Environmental Events. About.  15 Dec. 2016

Before and After a Major Storm.

 

Early Preparation and Supplies

Hurricane and tropical storm safety should be taken seriously from the very beginning of hurricane season to ensure that your family and property are prepared.  It is important to know the evacuation routes in your area in case you have to evacuate, especially if your home is near the coast.  You should also have your home inspected to ensure that it is up to code to handle the strong winds of a hurricane.  Perhaps the most important preparation for hurricane season is putting together a supply kit so you and your family have everything you need to make it through the storm.  A storm supply kit should include the following:

•Non-perishable foods such as soups, cereal, and dry goods as well as a can opener

•Blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags

•Flashlight and batteries

•Gallons of water

•Toiletries such as toilet paper, toothbrushes, shampoo, etc.

•Family prescriptions and first-aid kits

•Important documents such as birth certificates, credit cards, cash, social security cards, etc.

•Tools

 

What to do After a Hurricane

The storm has passed. What now?

•When power returns to your home, do not start all major appliances at once. Turn them on gradually to reduce damage to sensitive equipment.

•Avoid downed, damaged or loose power lines and report them immediately to the local police and fire department, as well as to the local transmission and distribution services provider in your area.

•Even if you have ventilation, never use a generator indoors. This includes garages, basements and crawlspaces. Exhaust fumes contain high levels of carbon monoxide which can be deadly if inhaled. Even when left outside, keep generators away from doors and windows and at least 10 feet away from your home. Also, allow your generator to cool off before refilling it with gas – splashing gas on hot generator components can lead to a fire.

•Do not use electrical or gas appliances that have been wet, and do not turn on damaged appliances because of the hazards of electric shock or fire.

•Never use charcoal indoors because burning charcoal produces high levels of carbon monoxide that can reach lethal levels in enclosed spaces.

 

Aftermath and Returning Home

If you spent the storm taking shelter in your home, you should remain inside until the storm has passed completely.  If your family was forced to evacuate, make sure the municipal government has deemed it safe to return as floods, mud slides, downed power lines, property damage, and other resulting disasters can continue to make the area dangerous after the storm.  It is just as important to exercise safety precautions in the aftermath of a hurricane as it is during the storm and it may take a while for your home or area to return to normal.  In the meantime, try to stay safe in your home and use your emergency supplies if necessary.

Hurricanes vary widely in strength and have the potential to cause all types of problems from damage to your home to widespread flooding and destruction that can disrupt entire communities.  Following these safety tips will help you keep your family and your property safe in the event of a hurricane.  If you experience significant property damage as the result of a hurricane, make sure you call P.R.S. of Tampa Bay immediately to help repair the damage.  These professionals will stabilize your home or building to prevent further damage and repair the home quickly so you can resume your normal life.

Further Damage

Unless you take efficient preventive measures immediately after a disaster, the excessive moisture, smoke particles, soot, etc. will continue to damage your household items and materials. With time, the damage will spread throughout your entire property and become irreversible.

You should also have in mind that rain, high winds, or other unfavorable weather conditions may easily inflict further damage to your home or commercial building if it has already been compromised by a disaster (broken roof, missing doors or windows, cracked walls, etc.) and left unattended. So, you are strongly advised to clear the damage as soon as possible after an emergency and protect your home against the whims of the weather, possible burglar attempts, and other potential misfortunes.

 

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Handling Lightning Damage

There are nearly 200,000 homeowners insurance claims filed each year due to lightning strikes. Contrary to popular belief, lightning can indeed strike the same place twice. The Empire State Building is struck by lightning about 100 times a year. You should always take a thunderstorm seriously and understand how dangerous and powerful lightning is.  According to NLSI statistics, 1 out of every 200 homes will be struck by lightning each year.

Tips and Facts about Lightning Safety:

Lightning storm

  • Lightning rods can protect a building from catching fire, not from electrical surges. Although, they are not 100 percent effective.
  • Do not use the telephone, because electrical wires may be hit by lightning. Even using a cellular phone is hazardous because the metal parts can conduct lightning.
  • The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000.Lightning not only occurs during thunderstorms, but it may also take place during volcanic eruptions, forest fires, hurricanes and nuclear explosions.
  • Lightning starts about 4,400 house fires each year.
  • A motor car with a metal top can offer you some protection—but keep your hands from the metal sides.
  • Victims of lightning do not retain the charge and are not “electrified.” It is safe to help them.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.

What Do You Do If Your Home Is Struck By Lightning?

lightning hits home

 

A bolt of lightning can reach temperatures up to 50,000 degrees, which is five times hotter than the surface of the sun. Do not take a shower, stay off your land-line phone, avoid contact with electrical equipment and cords… you probably have heard these standard precautions to take during a lightning storm over and over again. But the fact is that the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries is phone use. Lightning can travel long distances in both phone and electrical wires, particularly in rural areas. Taking precautions can absolutely reduce your chance for injury.

Lightning can enter your home in three main ways: (1) a direct strike, (2) through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure, and (3) the ground. Once the lightning has entered your home it can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio or television reception systems.  Lightning can ruin your electrical system in your home and it can also cause a fire. The fire could very well start within the walls so you may not notice it until it’s too late. You should call 911 immediately after your home is struck by lightning. The fire department handles all lightning calls and they are equipped with thermal imaging cameras to locate a possible fire burning in your home. They also will be able to survey the damages and let you and your family know when it is deemed safe to enter again.

Handling the Aftermath of Lightning Damage

lightning causes fire to house

After you have gotten everyone out safely and the fire department has assessed your home you may be left with damages. A standard home owner’s insurance policy should cover damages caused by lightning, including fires and fried electronics. Below are some tips you can use that will help get your home back in order:

  • Keep detailed records of all big-ticket purchases such as TVs, laptops and other expensive electronics. The insurance company will want to see proof of ownership.
  • Report a lightning strike to your agent as soon as possible.
  • Keep accurate records of how much you spend repairing or replacing items.
  • Review your policy for specific coverage information.
  • Check with your claim representative before you discard any items you plan to claim as damaged.

Lightning’s destruction can be random. In some instances your computer could be fried yet your T.V. still works. You should check all electrical equipment that was plugged in during the time when the lightning struck to inspect for damage. It could take weeks before you are able to discover all of the damages the lightning caused to your home. In the event that your home catches fire from the extreme heat produced from lightning, you will need to hire a professional to restore your home back to its original state. PRS is available 24/7 to assist with any disaster you may face. We are fully equipped to handle all fire and smoke damage. After you have assessed the damage and reported it to your insurance company, give us a call and let us handle the rest.