Lightning research and advice

Occasionally I get an inquiry about my work in lightning protection. I'm always glad to give advice and discuss the subject and I do a good deal of it, generally for no charge.

Lightning, however, is a tremendously controversial subject. It's as random as every other weather phenomenon, yet there seem to be a good many lawsuits generated in the US by people who've been struck by lightning or whose equipment has been struck by lightning and feel that someone should take the responsibilty for their misfortune. There are a number of people who work as expert witnesses in such cases for one party or another.

My view – and it's turned out to be an extremely unpopular one in the lightning protection community – is that lightning is far too random and involves far too many unknown factors to be a motivation for litigation.

Kinsler's Lightning Safety Tips

(1) Put a minimal surge protector on your equipment or preferably on the main service entrance of your home or business. Your refrigerator is probably more sensitive to surges than your computer equipment is.

(2) Keep your files backed up and your fire insurance paid up. And that's about all you can do.

(3) If you're in a rainstorm, try not to get wet. Your instincts are your best guide, and you can't dodge, predict, or otherwise deal with lightning if you're outside.

(4) If you're concerned with lightning strikes on your home or business, install a lightning protection system. It's not a big deal: get a reel of #6 aluminum wire, some ground clamps and some good-quality ground rods.

Electrically bond all exposed metal objects on your roof and run lengths of the wire along the roof ridges. Run the wire in as straight a path as possible down to the ground rods, which should be driven deep into the soil at the base of the building. Use the rest of your wire and clamps to bond the building's electrical conduit, telephone, communication lines, gas pipes, and water pipes together and to the outside ground rods. If it makes you happy, made a few 12" lightning rods out of some of the wire and clamp them at intervals to the wires strung along your roof. This system isn't guaranteed to do anything, and neither is any other lightning protection system, but it's about as good as you'll do, being pretty much what Ben Franklin specified in 1752. No improvements in lightning protection systems have been made since then. For further enlightenment, check or They make industrial lightning protection equipment and have a high degree of integrity.