Lightning is a natural phenomenon that can strike at any time. Although you can’t stop the lightning strikes, you can take steps to control the damage. Even though a strike lasts for less than a second, the discharge of electricity can be devastating.
Every year, there are multiple injuries due to these incidents, as well as considerable secondary damage. Lightning damages buildings and electrical surges can wreak havoc on your business’s electrical system. This is where commercial lightning protection comes in, and there are several ways you can assess the need for lightning protection for your own buildings.
Lightning Strikes and Power Surges
When lightning strikes a business, it creates a power surge. Power surges are sudden spikes or changes in a building’s power levels. This power surge travels through your electrical system and can cause widespread damage to your equipment in a few seconds. Anything connected to your electrical system will get hit, and, worryingly, this includes staff members that happen to be touching anything connected to the grid.
Power surges don’t stop at just sending a jolt through your equipment. Unfortunately, a lightning strike power surge may be strong enough to make sensitive devices unusable. Should this happen, your business’s ability to serve your customers stops.
Commercial Lightning Protection Equipment
When you’re looking for lightning protection for your building, there are dozens of options available. However, the most important lightning protection equipment you should have installed are:
Earthing rods are spikes or rods made from conductive material like copper or stainless steel that you can install into the ground around your business. They’re built to withstand electrical current spikes or lightning strikes.
These rods take the electrical current and safely direct it into the ground away from your business. In turn, this prevents the power surges from reaching your building’s exterior or interior electrical system and any devices hooked to the electrical line. They safely and effectively disperse the lightning into the ground.
A surge protector is a grounded plug that connects to your outlet and allows you to protect several electronic devices at one time. You may know them as power strips. They are built to withstand sudden voltage spikes and protect all connected devices.
You must check your surge protector’s warranty and lifespan when you purchase it. Since you’re going to protect your business, it’s worth investing a little more for a higher-quality product. The more expensive surge protectors come with a warranty. The warranty covers any equipment that you plug into the surge protector. If a power surge damages this equipment, the warranty can pay you back hundreds or thousands of dollars.
When a power surge hits, the surge diverter will ground the current, preventing damage. You’ll find surge diverters installed on your primary switchboard in your business.
These items may not give your business total safety against the power of a lightning strike, but they do provide an extra level of protection for every device you plug in. Most manufacturers recommend you install both surge protectors and surge diverters.
Do You Need Commercial Lightning Protection?
Before you go out and buy commercial lightning protection equipment, ask yourself a few easy questions. These questions will help you decide whether the measures are worth the expense or not.
1. What is your risk of structural or equipment damage?
Both indirect and direct lightning strikes can cause thousands of dollars in electrical-related damage. A direct lightning strike is when the lightning strikes your building. An indirect strike is lightning that strikes a power grid or transformer near your business and sends a power surge through the utility lines.
To assess your risks of structural or equipment damage, look at your building’s location. If your building is on an elevated hill or surrounded by rocky terrain, these are conditions likely to be hit by lightning.
2. How much revenue will you lose trying to restore your services?
Downtime can be expensive, and all firms across every industry want to avoid this at all costs. You have to think about how much revenue your business will lose if a lightning strike fries your equipment. How long will it take to replace this equipment, and what will this cost in addition to lost revenue?
3. What is the risk to your employees?
You should take precautions to prevent employee exposure to power surges and lightning strikes. All employers should recognise that lightning is an occupational hazard and will take steps to ensure worker safety.
4. Does your building have historical value?
Depending on your building’s age or cultural significance, it may have priceless historical value. When lightning strikes a structure like this, the damage may be extremely hard to restore and the building may never be the same again, so prevention is definitely the best policy.
5. Can essential electronic devices sustain damage from side flashing?
Usually, it’s not actually a direct lightning strike that damages your electronics. Indirect damage causes electronics to fail or fry, like side flashing. Side flashing is where lightning strikes a structure or power grid by your business and the current jumps from the original strike spot to another structure.
Take a look at your business’s electronics and see which ones are potentially vulnerable. Do you have a centralised file server, for example? If lightning were to damage it either directly or indirectly, would it take your entire operation offline? Any equipment not plugged into a surge protector is vulnerable to side flashing.
6. What do employers have to do to prepare their staff for lightning strikes?
The AS1768-2007 Lightning Protection Standard describes ways employers can protect their employees by installing devices to earthing rods, and by educating employees.
Employers who have employees working outside are required to develop evacuation plans, provide training and instruction, monitor the weather forecast, identify hazards, and implement control measures like earthing rods to help minimise the risk of a lightning strike.
Baines Drilling Can Help with Your Commercial Lightning Protection
At Baines, we’re earthing rod installation specialists, and we’re happy to set up a consultation for earth rod drilling and installation around your business. Get in touch today to discuss your lightning protection needs.