From Nursing Home Deaths to the Destruction of Sir Richard Branson's Home, Lightning Causing Notable Losses in 2011

Fire Prevention Week Underscores Hazard of Lightning to Life and Property

HARTFORD, Conn., Oct. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As 2011's Fire Prevention Week is observed in the United States (Oct. 9 – 15), recent lightning-triggered fires here at home and abroad have highlighted the deadly impact of lightning on unprotected homes and other structures.

Just days ago in Croatia, three people were killed after lightning ignited a fire in a nursing home that also injured 11 people. In August, Sir Richard Branson's home on Necker Island was reduced to rubble after a lightning strike that forced visiting actress Kate Winslet to rescue Branson's 90-year old mother from the blaze. Here in the United States, hundreds of less well-known buildings were similarly destroyed by lightning-triggered fires.

Against this backdrop of death and destruction, the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is once again seizing national Fire Prevention Week as an opportunity to remind property owners of the importance of lightning protection systems in helping to prevent property loss and injury during lightning storms.

"A lightning strike to an unprotected structure can cause catastrophic damage," said Julie Rochman, CEO & president of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). "Fortunately, there are relatively simple, inexpensive steps that can be taken to substantially reduce the chances of lightning-related damage and disruptions."

A lightning protection system provides a network of low resistance paths to safely intercept lightning's dangerous electricity and direct it to ground without impact to the structure or its occupants. According to Bud VanSickle, executive director of the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), the key to protecting people and property from lightning is through the professional installation of lightning protection systems.

"As property owners consider an investment in lightning protection, they should be sure to contract with qualified and experienced specialists who are trained to install systems in accordance with the nationally recognized safety standards of LPI, NFPA and UL," said VanSickle.

Lightning strikes cost more than $1 billion in insured losses in 2010—a significant increase from 2009, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). An analysis of homeowners insurance data by I.I.I. found there were more than 213,000 lightning claims in 2010, up nearly 15 percent from 2009. These losses ranged from damage to expensive electronic equipment to structural fires that destroyed entire homes.

The Lightning Protection Institute is a not-for-profit nationwide group founded in 1955 to promote lightning safety, awareness and education and is a leading resource for lightning protection information and system requirements. The LPI certifies individuals for the installation of lightning protection systems through a Master Installer testing program to qualify competence. LPI recently introduced a third-party inspection program for installation quality assurance. Information about follow-up inspection services can be found at www.lpi-ip.com. For a list of certified contractors and other information about national safety standards for lightning protection installation, visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org.

From October 9-15, 2011, lightning safety advocates will support the "Protect Your Family From Fire!" campaign, sponsored by the NFPA. More information about Fire Prevention Week can be found at www.firepreventionweek.org.


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