Over the years, lightning strike-related deaths have been on the decline. While this is a good thing, it is important to note that the decline in deaths is simply due to the increase in awareness about the danger of lightning. Though getting struck by lightning is a pretty rare occurrence overall, it can happen. It is far more likely, however, to experience lightning strike damage to your home or property than to your person.
Interesting lightning-related statistics
Most people actually enjoy a good storm, with one caveat. That caveat is storm-related damage. But as long as the storm doesn’t do anyone any harm and doesn’t cause property-related damage, lightning is actually quite interesting to watch. And every minute, there are an estimated 1,000 or more lightning storms underway around the earth, leading to approximately 6,000 flashes of lightning. So if you enjoy yourself a good lightning storm, there are plenty to be had.
Aside from the prevalence of a lightning flash here or there, it is important to make a note of some of these other statistics.
- In 2018, there were 20 fatalities related to lightning
- Between the years of 2009 to 2018, an average of 27 people died each year due to lightning strikes
- In 2018, Florida had the most lightning-related deaths with seven deaths
- After Florida, in 2018, Tennessee experienced three lightning-related deaths
- Homeowners insurance claims from lightning strikes in the United States fell for the third consecutive year in 2018
- The average cost that insurers pay on lightning strike-related claims has been on the rise since 2016
- In 2018, nearly $909 million was paid out in lightning-related claims
- Florida has the highest number of lightning strike-related claims in the United States
- In 2018, lightning-caused more deaths than tornadoes
The risk of lightning-related fires
Lightning related fires pose the greatest risk to homes and surrounding properties when thunder and lightning storms hit. Though not much statistical data is available, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) indicates that between 2007 and 2011, fire departments in the United States responded to an average of just under 23,000 fires each year that were started by lightning. Of those fires, nine people lost their lives and there was approximately $451 million in property damage, directly related to the lightning.
It comes as no surprise that lightning strike damage is more prevalent during the spring and summer months, which tend to be the storm season. June and July tend to be peak months for lightning-related fires, with August not far behind. Non-fire lightning-related incidents are most common during the months in July and August, with May and June also not far behind.
Lightning related damages
Lightning strikes can cause billions of dollars’ worth of property damage to homes and businesses across the country. Fire is a natural outcome of lightning as lightning strikes are approximately 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature, making it easy to warm a subject to the degree that a fire will break out. These fires can be devastating to homes, businesses, electronics, vehicles, and so much more.
Business owners are encouraged to have a risk assessment done by lightning consultants, especially in areas that tend to experience a higher degree of storms. Most lightning-related damage consists of the following:
- Fire damage– Obviously, lightning creates fire, which poses a serious threat to wood and other flammable materials. These materials can explode quite easily when they are exposed to the extremely high temperate from a lightning strike. Keep in mind too that lightning currents can travel through wires and pipelines and cause serious damage.
- Power surges– When lightning makes its way through electrical wiring as a primary or secondary path, it can damage all of the appliances that those wires are connected to. In many cases, these appliances are completely destroyed and are no longer usable.
- Shock waves– Lightning can produce destructive shock waves that can cause serious damage to concrete, brick, and stone.
How to protect your home from lightning strike damage
Whether you are a homeowner or a business owner, there are steps that you can take to protect your home or business from serious lightning-related damage.
- Install a home lightning protection system– These systems, when properly installed, are 99% effective in preventing lightning damage. Lightning protection systems consist of highly conductive copper and aluminum materials that work together to provide a low resistance path that safely grounds the dangerous electricity that comes from lightning. These systems often include surge protectors, lightning rods, main conductors, bonds, and grounds that all work together to protect your home or business. In many cases, homeowners can receive a credit from their homeowners’ insurance by having one of these systems installed.
- Keep unused electronics and appliances unplugged – Not only can this strategy help you to save money on your monthly electrical bill, but it can also help to reduce the risk of damage in the event of a lightning storm. In addition to keeping non-essential items unplugged, it is encouraged that homeowners use storm surge protectors wherever possible. Though these protectors can’t guarantee that no damage will happen, they can help reduce the risk that a lightning storm leverages the electrical wiring system in your home as a primary or secondary path. Keep in mind that electrical surges can even cause damage to non-electrical devices.
- Install and use transient voltage surge suppressors – As mentioned above, it isn’t always possible to unplug all of your appliances and electronic items. Many homeowners and business owners have benefited from the use of transient voltage surge suppressors that can help to limit the voltage during a storm.
- Stay up to date on your homeowners or renter’s insurance – Florida, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Indiana, and Missouri are some of the top states prone to homeowner’s insurance claims related to lightning storm damage. Not all insurance plans are the same. It is wise to stay up to date on your coverage so that you know what to expect in the event that a storm hits.
How to keep you and your family safe during a lightning storm
Though lightning strike-related deaths are on the decline, you must be aware of the steps to take to stay safe in the event of a lightning storm.
- If you are outside when a lightning storm hits, take refuge inside your car or in a grounded building.
- If you are outside and unable to get to a car or grounded building, stay away from tall objects such as light poles and trees, and keep away from bodies of water. Find a low spot or ground depression and stay as low as possible without lying down on the ground. Remember that lightning can move through the ground’s surface, and this current can be deadly.
- If you are inside, refrain from taking showers or baths or doing dishes until the storm has passed.
- Avoid using your landline phone, television, or any appliances that conduct electricity, unless they are connected to a transient voltage surge suppressor. However, even if connected to one of these suppressors, it is best to avoid use altogether until the storm has passed.
- Once the storm has passed, allow approximately 30 minutes before venturing outside or resuming your normal activities.
When to call a public adjuster
Many homeowners find value in working with a public adjuster on their lightning-damage related claims. Though it is possible to work with your insurance company directly, a public adjuster will help ensure that you are adequately represented and can get the most from your claim.
Where an insurance adjuster works for the insurance company, a public adjuster works on your behalf. The difference is that the insurance company will look to pay as little as possible towards your claim, and a public adjuster will work to ensure that you are compensated fairly and justly.
Your insurance company may try to discourage you from the use of a public adjuster, as the insurance adjuster is provided to you as part of your insurance benefits. Thus, it may seem like an unnecessary effort to pay fees for additional support. But, there are many cases, and lightning-related damage is one of those instances where you may need to receive a larger settlement to rebuild or repair the damaged portions of your property.
Your public adjuster will work on your behalf to provide a second opinion on your particular situation and the funds that you might be entitled to. Claims for flood, fire, lightning, smoke, wind, and hurricane damage are often filed and negotiated by public adjusters who have past experience working for any with insurance companies. These adjusters are skilled in reading the fine print of an insurance policy and knowing exactly what can and cannot be asked for in a claim. Your lightning-related property loss and damage can also result in the loss of business income, especially if the damage was to your business or if you manage your business from home, and public adjusters can evaluate for this situation as well.
Public adjusters are better equipped than the typical policyholder to estimate the costs incurred from a lightning-related property loss. These professionals are trained on and have direct experience to document and file an initial and supplemental claim on your behalf. If you have ever filed an insurance claim, then you know that it can be an exhaustive and frustrating process. From needing to log specific descriptions of damage, quantities, and costs for repair, etc., filling out claims forms is the average homeowner, and policy owner often miss tedious work and details.
If you are considering the use of a public adjuster, you really have nothing to lose. In many cases, public adjusters will offer to come to your home or business to assess damage directly, without a fee. They will then provide you with an estimate for their services, and offer some initial guidance on the severity of damage that you have experienced and whether or not their services could get you a better settlement.
Even if you are confident in how much your property loss is worth, a public adjuster can provide you with that second opinion to give you peace of mind. In many cases, public adjusters visit a home or business and identify that the estimated loss that the homeowner has estimated is far less than what it could or should be. Public adjusters are professionals who know which costs to include in their calculations and strive to protect homeowners so that they can wholly and adequately repair or replace what has been damaged.
The importance of submitting an accurate and detailed claim cannot be underestimated. Even the best homeowner’s insurance companies will work to avoid paying any more than they think is necessary to get you a minimal repair or replacement. Policyholders need to be conscious and well educated that they have claimed the right amount, and their public adjuster is there to help ensure that happens correctly and promptly.