In the U.S., your chances of being struck by lightning are one in 600,000; your home is also not immune to a strike. Lightning enters the home through both plumbing and electrical fixtures, which can cause fires, electrocution, and appliance or electronic damage or destruction. To prevent lightning strikes from hitting the house dead-on, homeowners can add lightning rods, which can deter lightning-sparked fires from destroying a home.
Electrical Devices, Phones and Appliances
Lightning can enter the home through a variety of electrical devices, including anything that plugs into a wall outlet, land line phones and air conditioners. Portable and cell phones are fine, as well as electrical appliances that are plugged into a surge protector. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends unplugging devices or using a surge protector the moment you hear the first thunderclap, which is also the signal to head indoors. You can safely begin to use appliances and head back outside 30 minutes after the last thunderclap.
Like electrical wiring, a home's plumbing fixtures and interior running water provide the perfect electrical conduit during a lightning storm. FEMA suggests avoiding the washing machine, the bathroom and kitchen sinks, and especially the tub and shower, during a storm. It's never a good idea to take a shower or bath when thunder can be heard, and FEMA warns against even washing your hands or dishes until 30 minutes after a storm.
Windows and Trees
Lightning can enter a home through a window and strike a household member, appliance or electrical device. When indoors during a lightning storm, avoid all glass windows, doors and porches until 30 minutes after the last roll of thunder. Adjacent trees pose another threat to your home as tall ones may fall onto it, causing fire or structural damage. In fact, 14 percent of lightning-related deaths occur under trees, which are powerful, tall electrical conduits during a storm.
If you are concerned about lightning damaging your home, one of the first things you should check is your homeowner's insurance policy, which can help defray costs after a storm, including tree and debris removal, as well as replacing appliances or electronic devices. To prevent future strikes and possible fires, consider installing a lightning rod on your roof and burying cables in your yard, which will deflect the lightning strike from a direct hit to your home. While it won't protect your home from tree-related damage or electrical surges, lightning rods can prevent lightning-related house fires.
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