Things to Check After a Lightning Strike
In 2019, there were 76,860 lightning damage insurance claims filed, each claim averaging $11,971. Most claims are filed between May and August and are fire claims, followed by electrical surge damage. Luckily, most insurance companies cover lightning damage in standard home, condo, and renter insurance policies.
Since lightning strikes seem so rare, the claim activity may be surprising. 19% of all lightning fires reported to fire departments from 2007 to 2001 were from lightning strikes to houses.
You will know that lightning hits your home if you hear a loud boom or see the strike. If you believe your house was struck by lightning, you can check for the following damages from a lightning strike. Safety first -- if you or your property was hit by lightning, call 911. Then, when it is safe, check these things:
- Check if anyone got hurt! If so, treat them immediately and call 911.
- Check for signs of fire – clues include charred electrical outlets, smoke, heat from your attic, a power outage, etc.
- Fried electrical appliances or electronics
- Fire or smoke inside or outside
- Charred or burn marks on roofs, outlets, switches, electronics, appliances, and more
- Water leaks coming from your roof
- Roof damage
- Siding damage
- Foundation damage
- Damaged windows or doors or other openings
- Chimney damage
- Electrical fire smells
- Buzzing or hissing sounds (these are electrical)
- Power outages
- Damage to electrical panels and circuits
- Check for dangers lightning damage may have caused that could cause injury like hanging beams, a hole in the roof, exposed wires, etc.
- Use a resistance tester to check your house's wiring to determine whether your wiring is damaged
- Test landline phones to see if they work
- Visually inspect for water leaks in all plumbing lines
- Test water supply lines for flowing water and water pressure to find leaks
- Check for other damage – fried wiring, downed power lines, blasted roof shingles, or damaged trees
Do not attempt to repair your electrical system yourself. It is wise to hire a licensed electrician to examine your entire home and outdoor property for electrical damage and fix any electrical issues.
What Damages Can Lightning Cause to Your Home?
Lightning can cause damage to whatever it strikes. The most common lightning damage is fire, and the most common area of the home to get damaged is the attic. The most common human-related injuries inside a home are people talking on corded phones or watching the storm while touching a metal-framed window. Though having a metal window will not necessarily draw lightning, it can act as a conductor.
Depending on where lightning strikes, it can cause:
- Power Surges. Power surges can make your power go down, blow out your electrical system, wires, electronics, and appliances, and start electrical fires.
- Shock Waves. Lightning heats air to roughly 50,000 degrees. That heated air expands in an explosive burst manifesting as thunder or a direct strike to an object or person. A lightning shockwave will crack and break concrete, brick, stone, cinder block, and glass. Shock waves can fracture objects creating shrapnel and flying debris that could propel at dangerous speeds.
- Fire. A bolt of lightning is strong enough to enter your home and start a fire.
Areas of the home that lightning may cause damage to include:
- Brick and stone chimneys
- Brick, stone, cinder block siding, foundations, concrete, plaster, and walls
- Roof shingles and gutters
- Water pipes
- Electrical wires
- Electrical system
- Electrical appliances
Items at risk include TVs, stereos, hardwired phones, lamps, video games, outlets and switches, hairdryers, curling irons, stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, dryers, computers, printers, light fixtures, microwaves, appliances, electronics, etc.
How to Protect Your House Against Lightning Strikes?
There is no fool-proof way to protect your home from lightning strikes. Yet, you can take precautions.
- Unplug. First, unplugging any major electronics in your home before a storm is a good idea.
- Surge Protectors + A Whole-House Surge Protector. You can also use surge protectors and install a lightning protection system. But do not do one without the other. The Insurance Information Institute (III) notes that having a surge protector without a whole lightning protection system will not help defend your house against a direct lightning strike.
A surge suppressor or UPS device (whole-house surge protector) costs $50-$150 plus installation. They take about two hours to install. It gets hardwired into your main electrical panel. The National Electrical Code enacted new building codes in 2020 that require whole-home surge protectors in all new construction.
- Install lightning rods. Lightning rods, or lightning protective systems, attract lightning and direct the electric current into the earth. They cost $.50 -$3 per square foot and usually sit atop your roof. You should have them visually inspected once a year and tested every three years.
How to Stay Safe During Lightning Storms?
Lightning travels through the air before hitting the ground, so there is no 100% safe space. It also branches out after hitting an object and jumps from object to object. Here are some things to avoid:
- Stay away from things that conduct electricity. Pipes, wires, metal, water, faucets, water pipes, electronics, gas lines, electric lines, phone lines, cable TV wiring, internet wiring, metal window frames, downspouts, gutters, etc.
- Do not touch electrical devices still plugged in or with batteries installed, including a phone landline.
- Stay away from concrete floors and concrete walls. Electricity travels through metal wiring inside them.
- Avoid faucets with running water. Electricity travels through pipes.
- Avoid specific activities. Washing hands, taking a bath or shower, doing dishes, using a wired phone, using a computer, electronic tools, appliances, and playing video games. Wireless devices are safe (cordless phones, cell phones, remotes, etc.).
- Avoid skin contact with the earth or any ground or floor. Lightning travels through soil and wet or damp concrete. Wear rubber-soled shoes when walking in a basement, patio, garage, or anywhere.
What to Do If Lightning Strikes Your Property?
If you smell smoke or notice other signs of fire during a lightning storm, leave your home. Make sure to call the fire department immediately, then leave your home. You can retreat to a neighbor's home or take cover in a hardtop car.
Hope that helps!
At your service,