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Homeowners Can Prevent Costly Lightning Fires

Guest Kim Loehr

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Guest Kim Loehr

Natural disasters can have a devastating effect on you, your home and your property. The risk of fire, especially fire associated with lightning, is often overlooked and underrated as a potential threat. Even the most safety-conscious homeowner may not have considered this risk that affects thousands of homeowners each year. Lightning associated with thunderstorms and sometimes hurricanes can pose a variety of fire hazards. The massive power of lightning’s electrical charge and intense heat can induce destructive power surges through home circuitry, burn holes in CSST gas piping, explode brick and roofing materials, and ignite house fires.


An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) found there were 185,789 lightning claims in 2009 costing $798 million, with an average claim totaling $4,296. These losses ranged from damage to expensive electronic equipment to structural fires that destroyed entire homes.


“Make no mistake, lightning plays a substantial role in the damage done to homes and businesses every year,” said Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president, public affairs with the I.I.I. “Many losses can be prevented when lightning protection systems and surge arrestors are implemented as mitigation methods.”


According to the I.I.I., damage caused by lightning, including fire, is covered by standard homeowners and business insurance policies. Some home and business insurance policies provide coverage for power surges that are the result of lightning striking a home or business. There is also coverage for lightning damage under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.


“While it’s true that lightning losses are generally a covered peril in most property insurance policies, there are treasured belongings that homeowners can’t replace or restore,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, President/CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. — FLASH®. “Lightning protection is often one of the least expensive improvements that homeowners can purchase, and it can provide the best type of insurance — peace of mind and protection for family, home and valuables.”


For homeowners who don’t want to take a chance with lightning, a professionally installed lightning protection system is a viable idea. A lightning protection system provides a network of low resistance paths to safely intercept lightning’s dangerous electricity and direct it to ground without impact to the structure or its occupants. The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is a not-for-profit nationwide group founded in 1955 to promote lightning safety, awareness and education and is a leading resource for lightning protection information and system requirements. When considering lightning protection, LPI stresses the importance of consumers contracting with qualified and experienced UL-listed and LPI-certified specialists who are trained to install systems in accordance with the nationally recognized safety standards of LPI, NFPA and UL.


“Homeowners need to be aware that installation of a system is not a do-it-yourself project,” says Bud VanSickle, executive director for LPI. “An experienced professional should install the lightning protection system, since improper installation can lead to serious consequences—and could be worse than having no protection at all.”


The LPI certifies individuals through a Master Installer testing program to qualify competence in lightning protection installation. For a list of certified contractors and other information about national safety standards for lightning protection installation, visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org.


From October 3-9, 2010, lightning safety advocates will support the “Beep! Beep! Beep! Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With” Fire Prevention Week campaign, sponsored by the NFPA. More information about Fire Prevention Week can be found at www.firepreventionweek.org.

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