LIGHT­NING PRO­TEC­TION FOR BARNS AND OUT­BUILD­INGS

EQUUS - - Eq Tack& Gear -

Back in the days when the av­er­age barn was just a stone and wood struc­ture, the only pro­tec­tion from light­ning it might have had was a light­ning rod, which was typ­i­cally a ta­pered metal spike (known as the “Franklin rod”) mounted onto the roof us­ing a cop­per tri­pod and braided cable or wire. If light­ning struck, the rod was there to con­duct the en­ergy into the ground, by­pass­ing the struc­ture. But a light­ning rod alone does not pro­vide com­plete pro­tec­tion from dam­age. Elec­tric­ity from the strike can eas­ily side-flash into the struc­ture, po­ten­tially caus­ing barn fires as well as the death of any an­i­mals in­side.

The mod­ern barn, how­ever, is much more likely to be a com­plex build­ing, with elec­tri­cal sys­tems, plumb­ing, metal door or win­dow frames, con­crete re­bar and other struc­tural el­e­ments that con­tain metal—all of which could con­duct the elec­tric­ity of a light­ning strike through­out the in­te­rior of the struc­ture. That’s why mod­ern build­ing codes re­quire that a num­ber of safety sys­tems be in place to pro­tect against the pos­si­bil­ity of dam­age from a light­ning strike.

“While the the­ory be­hind Ben­jamin Franklin’s in­ven­tion still holds true, light­ning pro­tec­tion is a sci­ence that has evolved to meet the needs of mod­ern struc­tures,” says Kim­berly Loehr, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for the Light­ning Pro­tec­tion In­sti­tute.

“A light­ning rod, d, now known as an ‘air ter­mi­nal’ or ‘strike ter­mi­na­tion de­vice,’ is only one com­po­nent of a com­plete light­ning pro­tec­tion sys­tem. In ad­di­tion to a net­work of strike ter­mi­na­tion de­vices or air ter­mi­nals on the roof, a com­plete light­ning pro­tec­tion sys­tem in­cludes down con­duc­tor ca­bles, cop­per ground rods or plates, bond­ing de­vices to en­sure elec­tri­cal con­ti­nu­ity and surge pro­tec­tion de­vices for in­com­ing power sources and com­mu­ni­ca­tion lines.”

If your barn was built re­cently, by li­censed con­trac­tors, it ought to meet cur­rent build­ing and safety codes, in­clud­ing light­ning pro­tec­tion. If, how­ever, you have an older struc­ture, even if it’s been up­dated over the years, it might be a good idea to have your barn in­spected by a pro­fes­sional. Es­pe­cially if elec­tri­cal storms are com­mon in your area, it might be worth the costs to up­grade the light­ning pro­tec­tion sys­tems in your barn to con­tem­po­rary stan­dards.

“Although the prin­ci­ples of light­ning pro­tec­tion haven’t changed, a lot of those old ter­mi­na­tion sys­tems will prob­a­bly need to be up­dated,” says Loehr, who sug­gests con­sult­ing the safety stan­dards writ­ten

by the Na­tional Fire Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (NFPA).

This type of work is gen­er­ally best left to a pro­fes­sional. And once a light­ning pro­tec­tion sys­tem has been in­stalled, it’s a good idea to have it in­spected an­nu­ally to make sure that weather con­di­tions, such as high winds, have not dam­aged any of its com­po­nents. Even re-roof­ing can af­fect a sys­tem’s per­for­mance, and any metal com­po­nents that are buried in the ground will de­te­ri­o­rate over time.

Even the most ad­vanced light­ning pro­tec­tion sys­tems may not elim­i­nate all dam­age from a di­rect strike. But it may mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween a few blownout ap­pli­ances ver­sus hav­ing the build­ing burn down.

UP­GRADES: A mod­ern light­ning pro­tec­tion sys­tem in­cludes con­duc­tor ca­bles, ground rods, bond­ing de­vices and surge pro­tec­tion de­vices.

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