You've heard about the importance of installing security systems and fire alarms into your home, but have you taken any steps toward lightning protection? Sure, most homeowners insurance policies cover damage from lightning – such as fires – but preventative measures are still recommended to avoid any potentially serious consequences.
Here are some of the ways you can lower the risk of lightning strike damage. And depending on your insurer, these steps might lead to a premium discount.
Install a lightning protection system (LPS)
According to the Insurance Information Institute, a single lightning strike can send hundreds of millions of volts of dangerous and destructive electricity into a home. Thousands of lightning-sparked fires occur annually in the U.S., causing fatalities and millions of dollars in property damage.
A professionally-installed LPS works by specifying a path on which lightning can travel. A rooftop network of lightning rods is connected to a series of down conductors, which carry the current down to a grounding network. This directs the lightning strike into the ground, leaving your home undamaged.
A simple LPS, which includes a lightning rod on the roof and a cable running to the ground, can cost as little as a few hundred dollars for an average two-story house. More complex systems, with several lightning rods and less risk of failure, may cost around $2,000 to $3,000 for an average two-story home.
Install a surge arrestor
Another way to prevent lightning strike damage is investing in surge arrestors, which basically protect your electrical box from lightning that enters through phone and power lines. A surge arrestor will stop any abnormal current from entering your home's internal wing. This can typically cost $100 to $200.
Surges can enter homes through power transmission lines and cause electrical fires as well as damage your electrical system, appliances and home electronics. This includes valuable items such as computers and smart home technology.
Play it smart
Beyond installing protection systems, there are other ways you can ensure the safety of your home and family when lightning strikes. Here are four things to keep in mind, according to the III.
- When thunder roars, go indoors. During a storm, it's best to take shelter in a house or other fully enclosed building. Inside, don’t stand near open windows, doorways or metal piping. Stay off the phone and avoid contact with small appliances, like toasters and hairdryers. As water conducts electricity, also stay away from plumbing, sinks, tubs and radiators.
- If you know a storm is coming, avoid known hazards and dangerous locations. These include areas where you will be the highest object—a golf course, for example. Bodies of water also attract lightning, so avoid lakes, beaches or open water, and fishing from a boat or dock. Never ride golf carts, farm equipment, motorcycles or bicycles during a thunderstorm.
- If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, take shelter in a hard topped-vehicle or a low area such as a tunnel or even a cave if necessary. Stay clear of fences, isolated trees and other conductive objects such as telephone poles, power lines and pipelines. These present a danger from a potential side flash, which is voltage from a nearby, lightning-struck object.
- If you're caught in an open field with no nearby shelter, and your hair begins to stand on end, drop down into a crouch with your hands on your knees, and balance on the balls of your feet. The static electricity in your hair is an indication that lightning is about to strike, and the idea is to make as little contact with the ground as possible. Never lie down flat or place your hands on the ground.