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Protect yourself and your property from lightning strikes

Protect yourself and your property from lightning strikes

RICHMOND—Your odds of being struck by lightning in an 80-year lifetime are 1 in 18,864, according to the National Lightning Safety Council.

Despite those odds, there have been multiple lightning fatalities in Virginia since 2007. Most victims were young adults or children engaged in common outdoor activities.

Types of strikes vary from direct strikes to side flashes (or splashes) that occur when lightning strikes a taller object, jumping to a nearby victim, according to the NLSC. Ground-current strikes are the most widely devastating, as energy travels outward from the strike through the ground. Any people or animals outside near a lightning strike are potential victims of deadly ground current, evident in mass fatalities of livestock.

The council cautions that no place outside is safe during a thunderstorm. It recommends running to a substantial building or hard-topped metal vehicle quickly. Otherwise, avoid open areas, and don’t be the tallest target. Stay away from isolated tall trees, towers or poles. Avoid wires or fences. Create distance from groups gathered outdoors.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, Virginia ranked in the top 10 states for homeowner insurance lightning loss claims in 2022.

“This weather peril affects most parts of Virginia, and it’s also a leading fire threat,” said Kimberly Loehr, co-owner of Loehr Lightning Protection Co. and member of the NLSC. “A single strike can deliver 300 million volts of electricity and 30,000 amps to unprotected homes. Compared to a household electrical current of 120 volts and 15 amps, lightning’s mega electricity can pack a massive punch with devastating results.”

Lightning fires can originate in enclosed spaces like the attic, basement or electrical service panels. Signs of a home strike include:

  • Power outages;
  • Sparks or smoldering fire;
  • Acrid odor or pungent smell (ozone) similar to melting plastic;
  • Physical damage to the structure or surrounding property;
  • Appliances or electronics that have shut down or turned on suddenly;
  • Dimming, flickering or burned-out lights; and
  • Humming or buzzing sounds.

“Safety standard-compliant lightning protection systems help prevent losses,” said Scott DeNoon, senior farm product and underwriting manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. “It's very important that these components be properly connected.”

Lightning protection that follows guidelines recommended by the Lightning Protection Institute can prevent fires.

“These systems work by providing a network of low-resistance paths to safely intercept lightning’s destructive electricity and direct it to ground without impact to a structure or its occupants,” Loehr added.

Your local Virginia Farm Bureau insurance agent can answer questions about residential and personal property protection coverage.

Media: Contact Loehr at 804-314-8955 or DeNoon at 804-290-1379.