Image: Fulgurite: What Happens When Lightning Strikes Sand

Lightning Protection Blog

Week 119 | January 29, 2016 ~

This past month I have posted on our Facebook page a few very interesting videos which got me to thinking about the nature of grounding and the lightning strike. On January 21, I posted one from Puget Sound Energy “This May Shock you: Downed Power Lines”  and then more recently I posted “10 Bizarre Reactions To Lightning” by Geobeats. In the latter number 1 caught my attention when in 1998 11 members on a soccer team were all killed by one lightning strike. It got me to thinking once again about the importance of lightning protection and lightning safety. Admittedly lightning protection is never far from my mind, but focusing solely on grounding is not something I carry around with me on a daily basis.  While I preach continuously the importance of a complete solution containing all three elements direct-strike- protection, grounding and surge protection. I rarely think of them alone. However, this time, and due to these videos, I honed in on grounding and how important it is for all facility types as well as individuals.

In the case of the 11 soccer players being killed by lightning, and the question of one team getting struck and the other not having even a tingle (although the locals in the Congo blamed it on witchcraft), the reason was rather simple and boiled down to their cleats. The team that died, were wearing metal cleats, the team that didn’t were wearing plastic cleats. So no voodoo, just good fashion sense!

Now the reason I like the other video done by Puget Sound it explains what happens very well when electricity (which a lightning strike is) goes through the ground and how to protect one’s self in case fallen power lines. However, believe it or not, the same explanation that the guy goes through with regards to not getting electrocuted are very similar to the circumstances of a lightning strike, although one is instantaneous, and obviously a down powerline is a threat as long as it is live. Also, there are so many factors that go into why someone might get struck by lightning, however, there are safety measures that can be taken by facilities and individuals in the case of lightning, which is in my mind more dangerous, because you do not know when and where it will strike; unless you have a charge transfer lightning protection system which as we know diverts the strike from occurring within the area that needs protection  as shown in Lightning Eliminators own video.

There are grounding engineering solutions (also known as earthing), which are implemented at facilities, such as ground rods, or a more comprehensive solution like a Chem-rod which provides protection to four times more surface area that the ground rod.

Clothing is another option there is clothing that has an Arc flash rating designated by the NFPA, called NFPA 70E and safety shoes with” withstanding voltage”.  As for soccer players, they might want to start sporting the plastic cleat look rather than metal cleats.  Since 1998 there have been several more incidents of soccer players getting struck by lightning, most recently in 2014 in Peru. Safety shoes would not be practical for soccer, but what might be, is getting off the field in the middle of a lightning weather event.  However, should you find yourself in a situation where you are caught outdoors and in the middle of a sudden lightning event there are steps to take. Obviously if you can get indoors or in your car immediately, this would be the best option, but if not — First of all, DO NOT RUN UNDER A TREE! Distance yourself from any trees!  Keep your feet together and crouch in a tight ball as much as you can. I have borrowed this image which was posted in an article by Mercola.com done by Ted Slampyak for The Art of Manliness.

Q: Why keep our feet together?

A: Current races through the earth’s surface towards the flash channel during discharge. Due to the high impedance of the ground, the current finds a better conductor, like your legs, unless they are at the same voltage. Keeping your feet together diminishes the voltage difference. Simply the greater the distance of the feet, the larger the voltage difference and the stronger the current! This is the reason you hear of many cows dying from lightning strikes. They cannot put their feet together.

At the end of the day, being prepared is the best option. If you have a facility, employ lightning protection, grounding and surge protection and where appropriate use safety clothing and shoes. If you are playing a sport and it starts to storm, stop the game and have all people go inside and don’t wear metal cleats and step away from all metal objects (golf clubs and bats come to mind), as well as trees. If you are caught out in a storm with no shelter nearby, do the lightning protection stance. Watch the videos I posted and keep yourself educated about lightning. In the next 50 years lightning events are expected to increase by 50%. Lightning will become a much more common occurrence and bigger threat to us all.

As always if you have any questions or need additional information please feel free to contact me at LightningDiva@lecglobal.com

Be careful out there! Visit www.lightningprotection.com for all your lightning protection needs. Follow us on YouTubeTwitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for more information and updates as well as some great photos.

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