Lies We Tell Ourselves About Lightning
Separating the Legend from the Legit – Part 2
The Fiction: Wearing Metal Jewelry or Personal Electronics Makes You More Of A Target
The truth of the matter is that anything less than 100 feet above the ground has pretty much no opportunity to impact the lightning’s attraction for where you are standing.
Lightning occurs on too large of a scale to be influenced by small objects on the ground, including metal objects. The location of the thunderstorm overhead alone determines where lightning will hit the ground. A lightning bolt that is several miles long, generated by a cloud that is more than 6 to 10 miles high, is not going to be influenced by your jewelry, or even your house.
The Fiction: The 30/30 Rule – Go Inside If Thunder is 30 Seconds or Less Behind Lightning, and Wait 30 Minutes After Lightning Activity Before Going Back Outside
Historically, advice states that listening for thunder and lightning within 30 seconds of each other can indicate that lightning is close enough to be dangerous, and you should seek immediate shelter; the second part of the ’30/30 Rule’ suggests waiting 30 minutes after a thunderstorm before going outside once more. However, research has proven that lightning can move further away from the center of a storm then a 30 second count can protect you from. Staying indoors, and in as protected a place as possible, is truly the only protection once can seek during electrically active storms. The new safety mantra is, ‘When thunder roars, go indoors!’ – meaning that there are no safe places outside – and no accurate way to measure distance or risk of lightning when a stormcell approaches.
The Fiction: Use The ‘Lightning Crouch’ to Protect Yourself From an Impending Lightning Strike
Crouching does not make you any safer when outdoors. The safest option is to seek shelter indoors (or worst case scenario, in a vehicle). The lightning crouch – putting the heels together hovering low but not on the ground – is a way to prevent possible defibrillation if you get struck by lightning directly, through side splash, or conduction, but it is not a means to prevent getting hit at all.
The Fiction: Being Indoors Makes You Completely Safe From Lightning
Being indoors is the safest place to be when lightning storms are overhead. However, being inside does not render you completely safe from lightning – especially if it strikes your home or office directly! It’s important to keep yourself out of a conducting path so that if lightning strikes on or nearby, you do not get hit with side splash/flash, ground current, or conduction – in which case the lightning is just as damaging to your systems and flesh as being outdoors. Standing near a window can also be a bad idea, since a direct lightning strike outside a window can still let charge pass into your home – glass is a perfect insulator, but windows have gaps around the edges and are usually framed in plastic or wood, which brings its’ own problems. If you want to protect your home and loved ones, consider installing a lightning protection system. While these won’t attract lighting, and don’t dissipate or ‘drain’ a storm of its’ electrical charge, they will offer fire protection and prevent structural damage by giving the awesome, unrestrained power of lighting a safe channel to pass through – instead of using your buildings pipes, wiring, or framing.
The Fiction: Surge Protection/Arresters Will Protect Your Home’s Electronics
Even if you put a lightning protection system on your home, plugging electronics into surge protectors or installing a whole-home surge arrester will not prevent your home from being struck by lightning, nor will it prevent that lightning from damaging your home, appliances, or electronics. Not only that, but if lightning hits the ground near your home or even utility infrastructure close by, like a power line, these items are not going to protect your electronics from the surge of raw, uncontrolled power nature unleashes with one simple lightning strike. We cannot really protect ourselves from it at all – just give it safe outlet and prevent damage along the way. A lightning protection system helps, and making sure your electrical system is well-grounded can make a difference – but since lightning comes from outside, in nature, surge protectors or arresters won’t prevent surplus electricity from surging through devices you have plugged in.
A common surge protector will stop voltage spikes and surges, but not the violent, catastrophic burst of current from a close lightning strike. Direct lightning current is simply too big to protect with a little electronic device inside a power strip, or even a hefty UPS unit. If your UPS or surge protector is in the way of the lightning’s path, all or part of the lightning will just flash over or through the device – regardless of the amount of capacitors and battery banks involved.
The best solution? Undoubtedly to simply unplug the devices that you care about the most. Removing them from the electrical system completely is the best protection you can offer to things like your wireless modem, laptop, cell phone, tablet, or desktop. If you’re not watching TV, unplug that too – just in case. Of course, you should check your homeowners or renters insurance policy to make sure lightning damage is covered; we all know being without our electronic devices can be terrifying in the social media age.
Swartz Electric is an endorsed partner with SurgeAssure. If you are interested in having your home assessed for a lightning protection system or a whole-home surge protector, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Swartz Electric, Colorado Springs highest rated electrician. We’ll be happy to consult with you on designing, installing, and maintaining a protection system for your home.
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This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.
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