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Lightning Protection Systems for School Buildings

What is more important than protecting our children? A lightning strike on a school not only exposes them to injury and possible death, but it can also traumatize children and parents and spawn anxiety about the school experience.

Educational Facilities & Lightning Protection

Special Risk Factors:

In addition to the lightning hazards typical of all building, schools often have unique risks. In the case of lightning-caused fires, for example, evacuating schools – during a thunderstorm — can be especially difficult if they have places of assembly such as an auditorium and gymnasium with spectator seating, or due to the presence of pre-school, kindergarten, and special-needs students.

Communities depend on school buildings for shelter in the aftermath of disasters and expect schools to resume functioning as quickly as possible.  Lightning protection systems for school buildings are more resilient so they are there when needed. School boards also appreciate that lightning protection systems are affordable and durable, making them a prudent use of the community’s resources.


school building fire

Lightning caused a fire at the Prospect School in Hempstead, NY. It forced the district to send students to other facilities across town while extensive fire, smoke, and water damage was repaired. Repairs cost over $10 million and took most of a school year.

Photo: Hempstead, NY Volunteer Fire Dept.

Watch Full Video Here:

"‘Extensive damage’ reported after Marian Central Catholic High School struck by lightning"

Lake and McHenry County (IL) Scanner

Does your building require lightning protection? 

Design and Installation Considerations:

Lightning protection systems require a whole-building approach in accordance with nationally-recognized standards, including LPI 175NFPA 780, and UL 96.

The standards require multiple paths to safely carry intense lightning surges between the sky and ground. This includes strategically located air terminals (lightning rods) at high points and on the roof, ground electrodes, and a network of heavy-duty lightning conductors to safely conduct current between them.

To equalize electrical potential throughout the building, the building’s plumbing, HVAC, structure, and other systems must be bonded to the lightning protection system, and the lightning protection grounding must be interconnected to the groundings for the building’s electrical and other systems. In addition, surge protective devices must be added to telephone, power, and other services entering the building.

Design and installation should be performed by individuals certified by the Lightning Protection Institute. For added assurance, installations should be certified by the LPI-Inspection Program to assure it functions as required. To make sure your lightning protection system remains in working order, have it inspected by a qualified lightning protection specialist every two to five years.

School administrators, teachers, and coaches must remember that it is their responsibility for protecting children against lightning and also applies to sports practice and other outdoor activities.  As the National Weather Service and other public safety organizations urge, “When thunder roars, go indoors.” (Download a lightning safety poster here.)

Case Studies

Final Thought:

Going to school buildings with lightning protection systems teaches children, by example, that safety is everyone’s business.

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