Lightning safety tips to protect your family and home

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina ranks 11th highest in the nation for the number of insurance claims for lightning damage, according to State Farm, even though the state ranks only 40th in size. But there are steps you can take to protect your family and home.

State Farm agent Larry Lucas says, “One of the most popular things in our area is to contact either an electrician or your power provider, SCE&G or one of the major carriers that handles your power, and they can do whole house surge protection. Most people are familiar with the strip that they use to plug their computer in to protect it from being damaged by a surge of some sort, but they actually can install those on the main power box coming into your home, and that will prevent a lot of lightning damage or surges that are the result of lightning strikes in the area.”

He says a whole-house surge protector will cost about $200, but considering how many expensive electronics most families have, he thinks it’s a good investment. Neither whole-house surge protectors nor surge protector strips will protect electronics completely from a direct hit, though, so experts recommend unplugging electronics if you know there’s lightning in the area or a storm nearby.

Another tip is for people who live in older homes. The electrical wiring in houses built before 1950 may not have ever been grounded, so if your home was built before that you should have its wiring checked by an electrician.

If you have a satellite dish, it’s highly susceptible to lightning if it’s at the highest point of the roof. Instead, it should be installed a few feet below the highest point, or even on the side of the house or on a pole in the ground. It also needs to be properly grounded.

You should also be sure to keep important computer files, like photos, videos, and important documents, backed up on a regular basis to an offsite source so you won’t lose them if your computer gets damaged by a lightning strike or power surge.

Experts also recommend that you think about your landscaping when it comes to protecting your home. Consider planting any large trees far enough away from your home so that, if they do get hit by lightning and fall, they won’t hit your house.

The old advice is also still true not to use landline telephones during a storm that may have lightning, and you should also avoid being near plumbing, since an electrical current will travel through metal pipes and the water in them.

State Farm says last year it paid 685 lightning damage claims in South Carolina that totaled almost $3 million. North Carolina had 750 claims that added up to $5.1 million, and Georgia had 2,718 claims for $15.8 million.

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