Storm Safety: How to Help Keep You and Your Home Safe During a Storm
Storms and tornadoes are popping up across the US and many wonder how they can keep their families and homes, both inside and outside, safe.
UL consumer safety director, John Drengenberg, helps to answer your questions.
Dear John: How can I protect my home from lightning?
Sometimes you hear stories where lightning strikes a home and it’s one bolt of lightning, but it takes out the TV in one room, it damages the furnace in another place—it just goes everywhere and does a lot of overall damage to everything that’s connected.
If you live in an old house, consult with an electrician to make sure your home’s electrical system is properly grounded and has a lightning protection system (LPS). Everyone should also have surge protection to protect their electronic equipment.
In addition, ask your electrician to make sure your gas system and metal piping is bonded to a grounding electrode. Otherwise a lightning strike that hits the home could rupture your gas lines and cause an explosion.
Dear John: Will a surge protector protect my home’s electronics?
A surge protector has an element inside that, in electrical terms, will “clamp” the surge. That means it will take the surge away from what’s downstream — your computer, your TV, your stereo or other electronic product you don’t want damaged.
It’s especially important to use a surge protector if you live in an area that has a lot of electrical storms or in a rural area or in a building that has a lot of large motors, like a large furnace or an elevator, that can send surges down the power line.
Dear John: What should I look for when buying a surge protector?
Make sure the product you buy is UL certified. That’s your indication that the manufacturer has met safety standards, and it could pay off for you down the road. We test products for safety, we look for any potential fire hazards, electrical shock hazards and even personal injury hazards.
Also look at the electrical rating — usually given in watts or amps — which tells you how much power you can draw from it. You have to know what you’ll be plugging in so you know you’re not taking more current out of the power strip or surge protector than it’s designed to handle. If you don’t really understand it, talk to the people at the hardware store.
A surge protector will also have a suppressed voltage rating. That ranges all the way from 330 volts to 4,000 volts. You might think you’d want the 4,000 volts, but you don’t. The lower that rating, the better the protection against power surges.
Dear John: How can I keep the outside of my house safe from storm or wind damage?
Strong winds from tornadoes can tear apart a home in seconds. With wind speeds of 200 mph, the damage to your home can be extensive. Click here for tips on how to reduce damage to your home from a bad storm.
Dear John: Is my family safe from lightning as long as we are in the house?
One of the important ways to stay safe during a storm is avoiding water. If lightning strikes your house, it can travel along the water pipes and potentially through you while taking a shower or washing dishes. Your water pipes are just another route for lightning to go where it wants to go, which is back into the ground. Click here for tips on staying safe from lightning.