Summer rains are a mainstay of the season, and with them, the thunder, lightning and stormy weather that often accompanies a good shower. Whether you're a fan of watching storms play out from the safety of your foyer or you run and hide at the first sign of foul weather, you'll need to take precautions to keep your facility and its occupants safe during a storm.
While indoors is one of the safest places you can be during a thunderstorm, it's still important to avoid lightning-related accidents as much as possible. Here are a few things to consider when you're putting together your facility's storm safety policy.
1. Stay off corded phones
It may not be as huge a concern today as it was even 10 years ago, but it's still worth noting that using a corded phone during a thunderstorm is a bad idea. In fact, according to Thornton Weather, corded phones are the No. 1 cause of indoor lightning-related injuries. This is because a building's wiring offers lightning a prime point of entry inside. This is true for more than just phones - televisions, radios, computers and any other appliances that plug into a wall can be a hazard. Cordless equipment such as cellphones and laptops are safe to use, so be sure to have your batteries charged if you know a storm is on the way.
2. Close the windows
Sure it sounds like a no-brainer, but open windows can offer lightning bolts a free passage into your building during a storm. As soon as you hear the distant rumblings of thunder that indicate lightning may be on the way, close and bolt all windows and doors so you're prepared. Keep in mind that windows don't have to be fully open to let lightning in - even significant drafts or leaks in the window frame can be enough to let in some errant electricity. As part of your preventive maintenance, be extra sure to seal all windows and doors properly as we head into storm season.
3. Be careful around electronic equipment
Once thunder and lightning start flaring up, your first instinct may understandably be to run to your computers and other electronic equipment and unplug everything. Despite the fact that this is motivated by a rational desire to preserve expensive equipment, it's a bad idea to run around during a storm unplugging electrical cords. A building's wiring can offer a conduit for lightning to enter, and you have no way of knowing when you reach to unplug a power cord if you're going to be met with a nasty shock. Keep in mind that commercial surge protectors typically won't protect your computers from a lightning-related power surge.
4. Prep your building
If your facility is located in an area that sees heavy thunderstorm activity, it may be prudent to outfit it with lightning protection infrastructure. The American Meteorological Society outlined the specifics for what you need to consider when installing a lightning protection system. These systems consist of one or more lightning rods that extend high enough above the top of the building that they become the primary target for any impending strikes rather than the building itself. Additionally, these rods must be integrated into a down conductor system that safely carries the current from the rod at the top of the building into the ground below without causing excessive heating or power surges that could damage building systems or endanger any personnel.