6 Tips to Protect Your Home & Family from Lightning Strikes

Storms and lightning are both exciting and frightening meteorological phenomena, there are many myths and confusion about elements that attract lightning, in previous days I saw myself inside my house in the middle of a thunderstorm, while I was listening to how lightning was falling quite close to where I was, I asked myself, what elements in my environment can attract lightning?

As an architect, I always had the concept that very tall and sharp-shaped elements can easily attract lightning.

I was also especially concerned that using the phone or the Wireless connection could attract lightning strikes.

I decided to make this research as detailed as possible, analyzing each element and verifying each myth about elements that attract lightning in a house.

Lightning is an element of nature that we have to live with, it is important to know how to act during a thunderstorm.

The electricity of a traveling lightning will always look for the fastest way to reach the ground, that is why tall and pointed objects that protrude above the horizontal surface attract lightning with higher frequencies.

For example, trees, towers, cable poles and other tall pointed objects that protrude above the others.

Here are some tips on how to protect your home and family from lightning strikes.

Briefly, which elements inside the house attract lightning?

Actually, no element inside your house attracts lightning, neither the WiFi signal, jewelry, the TV, nor the radio, lightning is attracted by elements on the outside that protrude vertically since lightning looks for the closest element to reach the ground.

Lightning is attracted to elements that are high, pointed, and insulated.

But special caution should be taken on the propagation of lightning outside through cables and materials that may be related to the house, that and other details I will explain below.

At the same time, there are many myths regarding elements that attract lightning, for example, metals, mirrors, jewelry, radio signals, none of these elements attract lightning as popularly believed.

What are lightning strikes and how do they propagate?

Before understanding what hazards lightning represents and how it interacts with other materials, it is necessary to understand what lightning is and how it propagates.

I do not intend to make a super complicated description, basically lightning is a phenomenon of intense electrical discharge between the clouds and the ground, or between various parts of the cloud body.

Normally, storm clouds (cumulonimbus) generate electric charges, the lower layer is negative electricity, the upper layer is positive electricity, and it also generates positive charges on the ground, which moves with the cloud as a shadow.

Positive and negative charges attract, but the air is not a good conductor. The positive charge rushes towards the tops of trees, hills, tall buildings, and even the human body, trying to meet the negatively charged clouds.

Finally, the positive and negative charges overcome the air barrier and connect. A huge electric current surges directly from the ground into the clouds along a conductive airway, producing a bright, striking flash.

This concept of lightning propagation and creation explains why lightning is always more frequent in high and pointed places.

1- Avoid using the telephone

As previously mentioned, sites located at a height and with a pointed shape are more likely to be struck by lightning, this shape corresponds to some poles or antennas for telephone signals.

It is possible that a lightning strike on an outdoor telephone line can cause overloads through the telephone lines.

A lightning strike on a telephone line can cause an electrical surge that travels through the wires and into the telephone handset.

During a thunderstorm, my biggest fear was using the cell phone with a WiFi signal, but, lightning does not really propagate through a wireless signal such as WiFi, rather, the danger is that lightning could travel through the outside wiring, cordless and cell phones are generally safe.

2-Avoid having very tall trees near your house

Having tall trees is a beautiful thing and sometimes it is something that simply cannot be avoided, but in some special cases, you should avoid having tall trees and plants near your house.

A specific case that I have seen a lot in the country where I live, is that many people like to have palm trees in their courtyards, near areas where there are swimming pools. This is simply a very dangerous combination.

Palms project a Caribbean ambiance, but what many people don’t know is that palms are susceptible to lightning strikes because they can grow very tall and many palms have a pointed shape at their apex.

In combination with swimming pool water nearby, we all know that water conducts electricity very well.

According to the concepts we explained previously about why lightning is attracted to tall objects, you should keep in mind that trees are prone to attract lightning.

That is why one of the tips to protect yourself from lightning is to mistakenly think that being under a lightning bolt can protect you, when in fact it is the opposite.

3-Use a lightning arrester system in your home

Increasingly, electronic devices are being used in households and are extremely vulnerable to lightning strikes causing transient overvoltages.

These devices can be protected by the installation of a lightning arrester system, adequate grounding, and surge arresters.

Lightning arresters are instruments whose purpose is to prevent ionized lightning from the air from causing damage to people or buildings by attracting the discharge to the ground, thus preventing it from striking them directly.

4-Close doors and windows and avoid standing in front of them

If you are wondering if lightning can enter through doors and windows in your home, the answer is yes, although it is very difficult and unlikely, it can happen.

Lightning not only travels vertically, but it has also been shown to travel horizontally, and lightning that strikes vertically could also have horizontal branches.

This occurs because the airstream produces friction that ionizes the air and that is a highway for lightning discharge.

You will be safe inside your house if you have doors and windows closed, houses act as Faraday boxes, almost all of them are composed of a metallic frame and the electrical installation also surrounds the houses, electricity has a much easier path to ground than entering through a window.

5-Do not use plugged-in electrical equipment

It is not wise to use electrical appliances such as hair dryers, power brushes, or electric shavers during a thunderstorm.

Although these electronic devices do not attract lightning, they are susceptible to damage from electrical surges coming from outside.

6-Do not use a chimney if you have one at home

Since lightning looks for the highest point where it can make contact, usually the most vulnerable point in your house will be the chimney, a lightning strike could strike the top of the chimney or even go down the chimney although that is unlikely.

You should be cautious during a thunderstorm not to use the chimney, nor stand too close to it, even though inside your home you are safe, the chimney is a structure that connects to the outside, especially to higher parts of the house.

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