We rely on critical facilities on a daily basis as well as during a natural disaster. Critical facilities, as defined by the government/FEMA, can include: fire stations, police stations, hospitals, emergency operation centers…and more. Are these critical facilities in your community protected from a lightning strike?
Impact of Lightning on Structures
Lightning happens daily, up to 100 times each second. Each strike yields large amounts of electricity, millions of volts, and immense heat which can reach temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun at 50 degrees Fahrenheit. When this energy and heat hit a structure, the power surges through the pipes, building structure, and electrical infrastructure. Commonly, the media shows the result of a lightning strike in the form of fires. Beyond fires, the internal damages can impact computers, communication devices, security systems, and the entire electrical/electronic infrastructure. This damage can result in the in loss of communication, data, revenue, and personal and business productivity.
A single lightning strike can have devastating consequences to individuals, homes, businesses, and communities – including critical facilities. One lightning strike to any of these facilities could prevent them from providing the necessary services to their community.
Whether one is a homeowner, a business owner, or part of the design/build community, understanding the impact of a lightning strike and how to be prepared is vital. These consequences can be avoided with the proper design and installation of a lightning protection system.
We know lightning happens every day – every second, yet there are little regulatory requirements for lightning protection systems on critical facilities. The Lightning Protection Institute believes that there is a strong foundation for regulating lightning protection systems on critical structures in high-risk areas.
First, to prevent the complete destruction that fire can do to a building and to mitigate human risks, there are requirements for fire alarms and sprinkler systems. Lightning protection systems perform the exact same function. These systems mitigate the impact of lightning on buildings and individuals.
Second, the government and federal agencies clearly see the need for higher standards in critical facilities and critical infrastructures. There are several documents that specifically outline what is considered a critical facility and what structures are encompassed in our critical infrastructure. Moreover, these agencies outline the necessity to protect these structures at a higher level to mitigate the risks to communities. Specific documents already outline the requirements to guard against flooding of these critical facilities to ensure services remain operational for the community.
Lightning Second to Floods
Lightning is second only to floods when impacting individuals and communities. Therefore, the same consideration should be given to mitigating risks of lightning. Lightning protection systems will mitigate the risks of a strike to these critical facilities and infrastructures. Creating regulatory requirements for lightning protection systems on critical facilities, in high-risk areas, would ensure that these buildings were protected/remained operational for their the communities.
With the frequency and potential of destruction, lightning deserves our attention. The damage of hurricanes, floods, and fires gains significant media exposure. We understand the consequences of those natural disasters and we have taken regulatory and personal efforts to be prepared and to be protected. Lightning is just as powerful and should be understood so more actions are taken to be protected from the damages and consequences of just one strike.
The design/build community continues to find ways to innovate through design and materials to increase safety for individuals and communities. Fire alarms are now standard practice to mitigate risks to individuals and minimize the structural damage caused by fires. Buildings can be designed to tolerate earthquakes. And over the last decade, new materials and design methods have been utilized and tested to build hurricane-resilient homes. These life safety measures are due to the collaboration of trades.
The next life safety step: regulatory measures for lightning protection systems to make these critical facilities resilient to a lightning strike. All of us, as experts in our fields, have the opportunity to protect the welfare of the community with a clear understanding of lightning and lightning protection systems. When properly installed by certified lightning contractors, lightning protection systems are scientifically proven to the mitigate the risks to homes, businesses, and communities - critical facilities. The next time you drive past your community fire station, police station, or hospital - Look up!
Is there a lightning protection installed? It’s Critical. These critical facilities in high-risk areas should be protected by lightning protection systems to maintain operations for individuals and communities.