Lightning Damage to Structures

house destroyed by lightning Lightning is a natural phenomenon. It is a high energy electrical discharge from the atmosphere into the ground that any structure along the path of the discharge will dissipate the energy contained in it. The effects of lightning to a structure can cause damage to the structure itself and to its occupants and contents. The damages may also extend to the surroundings of the structure. The scale of this extension depends on the characteristics of the structure and on the characteristics of the lightning flash.

Table 1 – Effects of lightning on typical structures
Type of structure according to function and/or contents Effects of lightning
Dwelling-house Puncture of electrical installations, fire and material damage

Damage normally limited to objects exposed to the point of strike or to the lightning current path

Failure of electrical and electronic equipment and systems installed (e.g. TV sets, computers, modems, telephones, etc.)

Farm building Primary risk of fire and hazardous step voltages as well as material damage

Secondary risk due to loss of electric power, and life hazard to livestock due to failure of electronic control of ventilation and food supply systems, etc.

Theatre,

Hotel,

School

Department store

Sports area

Damage to the electrical installations (e.g. electric lighting) likely to cause panic

Failure of fire alarms resulting in delayed fire fighting measures

Bank

Insurance company

Commercial

company, etc.

As above, plus problems resulting from loss of communication, failure of computers and loss of data
Hospital

Nursing home

Prison

As above, plus problems of people in intensive care, and the difficulties of rescuing immobile people

Industry Additional effects depending on the contents of factories, ranging from minor to unacceptable damage and loss of production

Museums and archeological sites

Church

Loss of irreplaceable cultural heritage
Telecommunications

Power plants

Unacceptable loss of services to the public
Firework factory

Munition works

Consequences of fire and explosion to the plant and its surroundings
Chemical plant

Refinery

Nuclear plant

Biochemical laboratories and plants

Fire and malfunction of the plant with detrimental consequences to the local and global environment

Source: IEC 62305-1 Protection against lightning – Part 1: General principles

About the Author

Ver Pangonilo
A Filipino Engineer, Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ) - Australia and Professional Electrical Engineer (PEE) - Philippines with extensive experience in concept select, front-end engineering, HV & LV detail design, construction and commissioning of Hazardous and Non-Hazardous Area electrical installations in water and waste water pipeline and pumping facilities, offshore platforms, hydrocarbon process plants and pipelines including related facilities. Hazardous area classification and design certification (UEENEEM015B, UEENEEM016B, UEENEEM017B).
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