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The Real Risk of Lightning Strikes for Homeowners

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Tuesday, 13 March 2018 06:55 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The number of deaths and injuries related to lightning strikes has decreased over the past few decades, but they can still cause a lot of damage to homes. And as climate change causes global temperatures to rise, a study has determined that the number of lightning strikes in the continental U.S. may only increase as the temperature rises.

Lightning bolts hit the ground 100 times every second across the globe, and there are 20 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes in the U.S. every year on average. Multiple studies have shown that as the temperature increases, so will lightning strikes—roughly by 12 percent for every 1 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures. This comes to a roughly 50 percent increase by the end of the century—about 30 million strikes per year in the continental U.S. by 2100.

As the number of lightning strikes increase, it's only natural to conclude that the risk of injury or property damage due to lightning could increase as well, making it important for homeowners to consider various measures to protect their property.

Injury and damages due to lightning

Thanks to general awareness about lightning, the number of deaths and injuries by lightning strike has decreased. Florida recorded the most deaths in 2017, with five, while Alabama followed with just three. July is the peak month for lightning strikes across the U.S., as the temperatures rise in the summer months and people do more outdoor activities. There's typically a 70 percent spike in lightning-related deaths during this time.

Despite improved safety, there has still been considerable damage reported. In 2016, there were 109,049 lightning-related insurance claims valued at $825.7 million, with each claim averaging about $7,570. In 2016, Florida saw the most claims for homeowners insurance lightning losses at 10,385, with Texas following with 9,098 and Georgia seeing 8,037. The warm and humid air, frequent frontal systems, and proximity to the coast and ocean make conditions ripe for storm systems in this region.

Fire is one common result of lightning strikes, with an average of 22,600 fires caused by lightning between 2007 and 2016, according to an analysis by the National Fire Protection Association, causing an average of nine civilian deaths and $451 million in direct property damage per year.

Over 50 percent of claims in 2016 were related to electrical surge damaging components or wiring. Power surges from transformer or service line shorts contributed.

Protecting your home

Standard homeowners insurance policies and comprehensive auto insurance policies typically cover damage from lightning strikes, such as damage resulting from fire. Some policies will also cover power surges, which can damage electronics, phone systems and even the electrical foundations of a home.

But there is still more that can be done to protect against lightning.

Homeowners can protect their homes by installing a lightning protection system that provides a specific path through which lightning can travel. It carries the voltage from a strike from a network of lightning rods on the roof down to a grounding network and away from homes and buildings. It also helps to invest in UL-listed surge protection devices to safeguard high-end electronics from lightning-caused electrical surges, which can damage appliances and start fires.

If you're at home during a storm, you should unplug important appliances; stay away from sinks, bathtubs and showers; and stay indoors. And keep an eye on the appliances after the storm, too: Damage to electronics and appliances can show up months after initial lightning damage.

And, in case lightning does strike, you can be prepared by storing fire extinguishers and flashlights throughout the house. In addition, by creating an inventory of your valuables ahead of time, you can improve the likelihood any claim is approved quickly in the case of any damage.

Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.

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MaximeRieman
And, in case lightning does strike, you can be prepared by storing fire extinguishers and flashlights throughout the house. In addition, by creating an inventory of your valuables ahead of time, you can improve the likelihood any claim is approved quickly in the case of any damage.
risk, lightning, strikes, homeowners
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2018-55-13
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 06:55 AM
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