Summer is in full swing in BC, which brings a number of seasonal threats to your property. While we have provided advice on how to keep forest fires from approaching your rural area home there is an interconnected event that can strike at a moment’s notice, even if you’re located away from kindling hills. Lightning storms litter the skies of our province through the summer months, and if 2019 was any indicator (422,000 lightning events!) we may be in for another show. While it can be fascinating to watch, a lightening storm can cause significant property damage and personal injury. You may feel powerless against something so seemingly out of your control, but there are steps that you can take to mitigate the risk. Let’s review.
3 Practical Ways to Keep Summer Season Lighting Storms from Damaging Your BC Home (and causing injury)
1. Remove (or move) THINGS THAT ATTRACT LIGHTNING
We know you may be tempted to let that maple leaf flag fly well after Canada Day, but it’s no urban legend that flag poles attract lighting, although it’s not in the way you may think. It is a myth that flag poles and rods attract lightning because they are made of metal. Contrary to popular belief, metal does not inherently attract lightning. Instead, height, shape, and isolation are the dominant factors in determining where a lightning bolt strikes. The taller, more pointed, and isolated a structure, the more lightning will be attracted to it. It’s also a myth that lightning never strikes the same place twice – it absolutely does and with greater frequency when the three conditions (height, pointy shape, isolation) are met. That means you should remove at-risk structures, or at least move them away further away from your home. These include the following:
- Flag poles
- Grounded weather vanes
In addition, have a look at your outdoor set-up to determine what may attract lightning. Gather up patio umbrellas, tiki torches, and other items that fit the bill (tall, pointed, and isolated) and carry them to the shed or garage when a storm is forecast. Tree branches should be trimmed, and kept at least 10-feet away from your home if possible.
2. Unplug Non-Essentials (and Wait)
Houses are filled with many potential routes for lightning to spread, with electric lines, phone lines, and cable TV/internet lines providing a pathway that can lead to fire, power surge, and shockwave damage. Surge protectors can certainly help, but they are by no means 100% deterrents. Instead, unplug all non-essential appliances and electronics during a lightning storm. That may mean living without Netflix or Amazon Prime for an hour or so, but it’s worth the “sacrifice”. You can always take the opportunity to huddle up as a family and enjoy some time by candlelight to watch the light show from behind the sanctity of your living room window.
How long should you wait before plugging your electronics back in? National Geographic recommends that you wait 30-minutes from the last lightning strike and thunder clap.
3. Install a Lightning Protection System
A more direct way to protect your home against lightning strikes is to professionally install a lightning protection system. These installations are designed to protect your house and surrounding property from damage by intercepting lightning strikes and passing extremely high currents safely to the ground. Typical systems are comprised of a network of air terminals, bonding conductors, and ground electrodes. Simply perform an online search for lightning protection system installations in your area and review your options.
Keeping Occupants Safe Too
You may not know someone who has directly been injured by lighting, but the risk is ever-present and you don’t want to be responsible for adding to the statistics. The Government of Canada reports that approximately 150 people are injured each year by lightning.
The following steps will help keep everyone in your home safer during a lightning storm:
- Keep all occupants, guests, and pets indoors
- Stay off of your corded home phone and plugged-in electronics
- Stay away from plumbing including toilets, sinks and faucets (pipes make excellent conductors)
- Wait for 30 minutes before returning to normal activities