Protecting Yourself (and Your Tech) from a Lightning Storm

If you are outdoors, there is no safe place during a lightning storm. If you hear thunder, then that means that you are in immediate danger, because lightning can strike from over 15 miles away.

The two most dangerous times for lightning strikes are just before a storm begins and just after a storm passes. That’s why it’s important to get inside when you see a storm approaching and stay indoors until at least 30 minutes after the storm has stopped.

If, for some reason, you cannot get indoors for a storm, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of lightning strikes:

  • Find indoor shelter. Get inside the nearest available hard-topped vehicle or building, keeping all windows shut, and stay there for at least 30 minutes after the storm passes before returning outside. Avoid picnic tents, pavilions or other open, outdoor structures.
  • Get to low ground. Avoid hilltops and open areas. Lightning seeks the highest ground, so if indoor shelter is not available, crouching down in the nearest, lowest, unexposed point is a better bet.
  • Distance yourself from tall objects. Never stand near tall structures — particularly metal ones — which can act as lightning rods. Avoid lone trees, flagpoles, telephone poles, fences and antennas.

Once Inside:

A safe shelter is a place with electricity and/or plumbing or a metal-topped vehicle with the doors closed. You can further protect yourself while indoors by doing the following:

  • Avoid water during a thunderstorm. Lightning can travel through plumbing.
  • Avoid electronic equipment of all types. Lightning can travel through electrical systems and radio and television reception systems.
  • Avoid corded phones. However, cordless or cellular phones are safe to use during a storm.
  • Avoid concrete floors and walls.
  • Protect your pets: Dog houses are not safe shelters.

Now that you’ve taken the proper steps to safeguard yourself and your family, you’ll want to make sure that your electronics are protected as well. There is no way to prevent lightning strikes on your home or shelter, but there are ways to protect your house in the case of a lightning strike. Lightning rods are designed to protect a building from lightning strikes by intercepting the strike and providing a conductive path for the electrical discharge to follow. At the end of the path, the energy is dispersed safely into the ground.

Lightning rods can protect your structure from a direct lightning strike, but it is also important to have a system in place to protect against harmful electrical surges caused by summer storms. This is where surge protectors can save your electronics or appliances from voltage spikes.

Surge Protector Guide:

A surge protector safeguards electronics from the harmful effects of power surges and voltage spikes. Surge protectors have the ability to absorb and dissipate the power of a surge so that connected equipment is shielded from the surge. There are many factors to consider when choosing the right surge protection:

    • Know Your Joules — A surge protector's joule rating indicates how much energy it can absorb before it fails. The higher the number, the greater the protection provided. The type and value of the equipment to be protected are key factors in determining the amount of protection needed. Are you protecting a $500 PC or a $10,000 home theater? Obviously, the higher the value, the higher the level of protection required. If you're located in an area with frequent thunderstorms, also consider a higher level of protection. A Power Strip is Not a Surge Protector — It’s important to know that a power strip simply turns one outlet into more outlets while a surge protector actually safeguards your electronics.
    • Know Your Electronics — It is important to consider what you’ll be plugging into your surge protector and buy a unit that has ample space to plug in all of your equipment. You can even get surge protectors with USB ports.
      • Any device that plugs into an AC outlet can benefit from a surge protector. The most vulnerable pieces of equipment are those with memory and sensitive electronic circuitry. A surge protector is essential for:
      • PCs and computer peripherals such as printers, monitors, and routers
      • TVs, DVRs, cable boxes, satellite receivers, sound systems, and other home theater components
      • Video game systems
      • Lighting, tools, small appliances, and office equipment
    • Surge Protectors Need to be Replaced — As surge protectors take on voltage spikes, they will eventually become less effective.

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