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Lightning Protection Codes, Standards, and Regulations

July 15, 2020

One of the most significant dangers to buildings and construction sites is lightning. The sheer power and voltage behind a lightning strike can cause extreme fires, electrocution, and extensive damage, completely disrupting a facility’s operations.

This is why there are national and international lightning protection standards and regulations in place to help keep people safe and operations running smoothly.

The Basics of Lighting Protection Standards

The standards for lightning protection are regularly updated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) The NFPA’s Lightning Protection Standard is NFPA 780. Other lightning standards that are important to note include the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) UL 96A, and Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) LPI-175.

Following the basic regulations of these three standards will ensure that you are able to keep your structures safe and protected from potential lightning damage during a storm. Each standard does have some variations, but they correlate very closely with each other and are all certified.

These standards and regulations come from substantial research of the science behind what happens during a lightning strike, much of which was conducted by NASA. They take this discovered information and incorporate it into solid lightning protection systems and protocols to help protect you and your structures against even the most intense and direct lightning strikes.

Building Codes and Lightning Protection

In most areas of the United States, Lightning Protection Systems are not mandatory. The standards leave the application of these systems up to the local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) or in most cases, the owner of the building.

The state of Florida building code requires Lightning Protection to be installed on all newly constructed Schools, Hospitals, and Nursing Homes. This is the only such mandate in the US. The NFPA helps building owners determine their risk from lightning, and as such, their need for Lightning Protection through its Lightning Risk Assessment located in Annex L of the current edition of NFPA 780.

Lightning Risk Assessment

When assessing your risk from lightning, we first attempt to determine what is the likelihood that your building will be struck. Then, if struck, we look at how vulnerable the operations of the facility will be to that event. Once the level of risk has been determined, the development of appropriate lightning protection measures can begin.

There are some cases where the need for protection should be given serious consideration regardless of the outcome of the risk assessment. Examples are those applications where the following are factors:

  • Large crowds
  • Continuity of critical services
  • High lightning flash frequency
  • Tall isolated structure
  • Building containing explosive or flammable materials
  • Building containing irreplaceable cultural heritage

Need help with ensuring your facility is up to code? Contact one of our lightning protection system experts today!