Protecting Your Facilities from Lightning Strikes

Lightning strikes are a constant threat, but buildings and equipment are more vulnerable than ever. Today's facilities rely heavily on sensitive electronics for critical operations. These systems are easily damaged by lightning surges.

Why Lightning Protection Matters

While airplanes must meet strict regulations to withstand lightning strikes, there are few such requirements for buildings.  Thankfully, the same principles used to safeguard electronics in aircraft can be applied to ground-based facilities.  By implementing these methods, facility managers can significantly reduce the risk of lightning damage.

Direct and Indirect Lightning Threats

Lightning can damage facilities in two ways:

  • Direct Strikes: Large buildings can be directly struck, causing extreme heat and powerful electrical currents.
  • Indirect Strikes: Even if a facility isn't directly hit, nearby strikes can cause voltage surges in the ground, potentially damaging equipment within a kilometer radius.

The best way to safeguard your facility is through proactive measures like lightning protection system design and testing.

Effective Lightning Protection Strategies

Several well-established techniques based on physics principles can provide excellent protection when properly implemented. These methods include:

  • Air Terminals (Lightning Rods)
  • Grounding
  • Bonding
  • Shielding
  • Surge Protection
  • Circuit Design

Why Traditional Standards Might Not Be Enough

Existing building codes often focus on protecting older structures and electrical systems. These standards may not be sufficient for safeguarding sensitive electronics in modern facilities.  Over-reliance on surge protectors and lightning rods without considering other techniques is a common shortcoming.

A comprehensive plan, similar to those used in aircraft design, is necessary for optimal protection. This plan should address all potential lightning effects, both direct and indirect, to safeguard all critical systems.

Focus on Established Methods, Not Unproven Solutions

Lightning can't be entirely eliminated, but with proper engineering practices and a strong understanding of lightning physics, facilities can be designed to not only survive but also continue functioning after a lightning strike.  The success of lightning protection in modern aircraft demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach.

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