Lightning Safety and Your Homeowners Insurance

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Claims are down, but severity is up. Is your home protected?

Insurance claims for lightning strikes in the United States is on a steady decline as fewer storms and dry weather prevail. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), however, insurers still paid nearly 100,000 policyholders $739 million in lightning claims in 2014. And despite the 13 percent drop in claims from 2013 to 2014, the average lightning paid-claim amount rose 26 percent, from $5,896 to $7,400, in the same span of time. With 10,440 claims out of a total 99, 871, Florida was the top state for lightning claims last year, followed by Georgia, Texas and Louisiana.

So while claims are down, lightning strikes are still a serious reality. It’s estimated that 20 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur each year in the US alone. And since each strike can carry 100,000 volts or more, significant damage can occur – even miles from the point of impact. The cost of repairs is often shocking for many homeowners, so what can you do to make sure your home is protected?

What makes lightning damage so costly?

Both lightning strikes and power surges send energy into conductive materials like phone lines, cables, electrical wires – event ductwork and plumbing. These spikes and sags in power can fry motherboards in expensive computers, destroy hard drives and even start fires. Electrical arcing, where energy is discharged between two electrodes, can also cause fires.

As American homes and lives become increasingly digitized, our electronic circuitry is becoming denser, more compact, increasingly interconnected and ultimately much more vulnerable to damage from lightning and power surges. While some places are at more risk than others, Florida is well-known as the lightning capital of the US. With more fatalities, injuries and damage caused by lightning than anywhere else, Florida experiences more than 1.5 million lightning flashes each year and sees more than 26 strikes per square mile.

What can I do to protect my home, my family and myself?

While lightning can and does cause power surges and sags, it’s not the only culprit:

Turning on large equipment

Operating a lot of equipment during peak hours of demand

Utility and construction work

There are protective measures you can take:

Point-of-device surge protectors for individual electronic devices like TVs, computers and printers

Service panel suppressors that are able to manage large surges before they enter your home. Keep in mind that this will not be enough protection on its own as a direct strike will bypass the suppressor and damage any electronic devices not protected by a point-of-device surge protector.

Equipment breakdown insurance can protect your property if power fluctuations cause damage that leads to food spoilage, emergency repairs or lost income.

Lightning protection systems that are designed and installed in accordance with accepted industry standards and meet the requirements set forth by the National Fire Protection Association, Lightning Protection Institute and UL. These systems will protect your home by providing a specific path to harness and safely ground the bolt’s super-charged current. They don’t attract or repel the strike. They simply accept it and route it harmlessly into the earth where the dangerous electrical event is discharged.

Seek shelter any time you hear thunder while you are outside. The majority of lightning victims are only steps away from safety. If you cannot get inside, remember to seek areas of lower elevation, never use trees for shelter, get out of and away from water, avoid metal objects (fences, power lines, poles, etc.) and do not raise anything conductive (such as an umbrella or golf club) above you.

Will insurance cover damages to my home as a result of a lightning strike?

Standard homeowners insurance policies will cover lightning-related damage, including damage from a stemming strike. But only certain policies will provide coverage for power surges a strike may cause. The optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy also offers coverage for lightning damage. Some of these policies may have limitations that affect coverage.

For example, equipment deprecation or the cost of your deductible may mean you’re not fully repaid. Damaging power surges caused by utility work or another non-lightning source may not be covered, or the coverage may be subject to significant limitations. Cautious homeowners may want to research special surge protection coverage for incidents not tied to lightning.

For any questions relating to lightning damage, your existing policy or your need for homeowners insurance,contact us today