This week is Lightning Strike Awareness Week, sponsored by the National Weather Service to raise awareness about lightning hazards and to remind us about personal safety. Lightning kills an average of 47 people in the United States each year, and hundreds more are severely injured.
While the chances of being struck by lightning are pretty rare, particularly if you heed expert advice during electrical storms, the chances of damage to your home or property are much more common. The Insurance Information Institute (III) just issued an updated report on homeowners insurance claims from lightning strikes and electrical surges in the United States. The bad news is that the number if incidents rose by almost 10% in 2016 to 109,049 claims, but the good news is that the average cost of a claim that insurers paid dropped by almost 5% – to an average of claim cost of $7,571.90. III says that more than half the claims were related to electrical surge damaging components or wiring, while power surges from transformer or service line shorts were also contributing factors.
Does your homeowners insurance cover a lightning strike? III says that:
Damage caused by lightning, such as a fire, is covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. Some policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of a lightning strike, which can cause severe damage to appliances, electronics, computers and equipment, phone systems, electrical fixtures and the electrical foundation of a home.
Report all claims immediately to your insurer. For advance planning, check with your independent insurance agent to learn what your homeowners policy does and doesn’t cover.
Home Lightning Protection
See the III infographic we included in this post and their article on Lightning Coverage and Safety for information on home lightning protection systems, as well as “do’s and don’ts” for general lightning safety. Lightning protection systems are designed to protect your home by “providing a specified path to harness and safely ground the super-charged current of the lightning bolt.” But in purchasing a lightning protection system, it’s important to find a licensed and certified installer. Shoddy systems that don’t comply with national standards can be dangerous – see this consumer alert that depicts that dangers of shoddy systems.
In honor of Lightning Strike Awareness Week, we bring you some survivor stories. What’s your chance of being struck by lightning? Well, in any given storm, about 1 in 750,000; but over the course of a lifetime, about 1 in 6,250. If worse comes to worst, you will probably survive – about 9 out of every 10 people who are struck by lightning survive to tell the tale, but many are plagued with a variety of medical problems and disabling conditions over a lifetime.
In these clips, people talk about what the experience was like and discuss some of the after effects.
Being stuck by lightning does not make you immune – this poor man was struck by lightning 6 times!
June 19 to June 25 is Lightning Safety Week. It’s good timing because we are approaching the heaviest lightning season. Hopefully, we’ve already had our fill of extreme weather this year, but there are no guarantees. In an average year, there are 57 fatal lightning strikes, most occurring in June, July and August. There have been 4 lightning fatalities so far this year – three of them occurring during agricultural work and one related to tornado search-and-rescue. The National Weather Service keeps track of lightning fatalities for the current year, as well as for prior years going back to 1959. Last year, there were 29 fatalities, a remarkably low year. The top 5 states for lightning fatalities over the past 10 years are Florida (62), Colorado (26), Texas (24), Georgia (19), and North Carolina (18).
Not everyone who is struck by lightning is killed – many survive to tell the tale. You can read some harowing stories of lightning strike survivors – there’s even a support group: Lightning Strike & Electric Shock Survivors.
Your odds of being hit by lightning are about 1 in 700,000 – but experts all agree that you should take care not to make yourself a target. For a little motivation, you might visit Human Voltage, a page that NASA compiled to document what happens when people and lightning converge.
The National Weather Service has 5 simple words of safety advice: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!. We’re reprinting Here is their safety advice:
“There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Just remember, When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many of the lightning deaths and injuries in the U.S.
The best way to protect yourself from lightning is to avoid the threat. You simply don’t want to be caught outside in a storm. Have a lightning safety plan, and cancel or postpone activities early if thunderstorms are expected. Monitor weather conditions and get to a safe place before the weather becomes threatening. Substantial buildings and hard-topped vehicles are safe options. Rain shelters, small sheds, and open vehicles are not safe.
When inside, do not touch anything that is plugged into an electrical outlet, plumbing, and corded phones. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe. Also, keep away from outside doors and windows and do not lie on a garage floor.
Lightning Victims: If someone is struck by lightning, they may need immediate medical attention. Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to touch. Call 911 and monitor the victim. Start CPR or use an Automated External Defibrillator if needed.”
How vulnerable is your computer in an electrical storm? Let’s ask 19-year old Hopkinton resident Anthony Tomasz who was sent flying across the room when lightning struck his computer last week. This is a reminder to turn off and unplug household electronics during an electrical storm. PC Doctor has several tips on what to do if you think your computer has been damaged by lightning. Oh, and if a storm causes damage to your computer or your home, don’t forget to call your insurance agent. See Am I Covered by the Insurance Information Institute to learn more about typical homeowners insurance coverage.