Lightning strikes in 2011 cost nearly $1 billion in insured losses

Lightning strikes in the U.S. cost nearly $1 billion in insured losses in 2011, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Protect your home or business during Lightning Safety Awareness Week (June 24-30) using resources offered by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

An analysis conducted by I.I.I. and State Farm® shows that there were more than 186,000 lightning claims in 2011, with the average claim costing more than $5,000. The report also concludes that the average cost per claim rose 93 percent from 2004-2011, despite the actual number of paid claims falling by more than 33 percent during the same time period.   

“Lightning strikes are one of the major sources of external power surges that can severely damage electronic equipment and cause fires – either of which can be a huge disruption to a family or business,” said Julie Rochman, IBHS president & CEO. “Fortunately, relatively simple, inexpensive steps can be taken to substantially reduce the chances of lightning-related destruction and interruptions.”

A whole-house/building sure protector is the best place to start in reducing your risk of property damage, according to IBHS. Check with your local utility company to see if they provide surge protections systems. If not, consult a licensed electrician about having one installed. IBHS recommends having the surge protection system installed by a UL listed installer and meet the requirements of NFPA 780 and Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) Standards. 

In additional to whole-building surge protection, IBHS offers the following guidance below. Afterwards, find additional lightning resources available at DisasterSafety.org.

  • Unplug electronic equipment. It is the most reliable means of protecting that equipment from a power surge.

  • Know the important difference between a surge suppressor and a power strip. A power strip plugs into your wall outlet and allows you to plug in multiple electronic devices. However, a power strip does not protect equipment from being damaged by a power spike. A surge protector also gives the user the ability to plug in multiple electronic devices, but it also serves another very important function in that it also protects your electronic devices from a power spike.

  • Connect telephone, cable/satellite TV and network lines to a surge suppressor.

  • Make sure the surge suppressor has an indicator light so you know it is working properly.

  • Ensure the surge suppressor has been tested to UL 1449.

  • Purchase a surge suppressor with a Joule rating of over 1,000. The Joule rating typically ranges from 200 up to several thousand – the higher the number the better.

  • Look for a surge suppressor with a clamping voltage rating (voltage at which the protector will conduct the electricity to ground) between 330 v, which is typical, to 400 v.

  • Purchase a surge suppressor with a response time less than 1 nanosecond.

  • Do not cut corners. You don’t want to protect a $1,000 television or computer system with a $10 surge protector, for $25 and up you can provide much better protection

  • Have a licensed electrician or home/building inspector review the power, telephone, electrical and cable/satellite TV connections to your building. Have them check to make sure that you have adequate grounding of the power line connection and your power distribution panel. All of the utilities should enter the structure within 10 feet of the electrical service entrance ground wire and be bonded to that grounding point.

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