How to Protect Your Business from a Lightning Strike

Lightning strikes the Earth around 45 times a second, but few people know just how to protect their business from a direct strike, or a surge of electricity. We want to change that. Protecting your business from a disaster should always be in the back of a business owner’s mind, and a lightning strike can certainly be disastrous for an unprotected building. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself, and your business, for a lightning strike.

How Lightning Affects Your Electronics

It may seem like common sense, but it’s important to understand exactly how lightning or other voltage spikes can damage or destroy electronics. The excess voltage caused by a direct or even an indirect lightning strike can easily overwhelm unprotected devices ranging from printers and copiers, to vital computers, data servers, and phone systems by overvolting and subsequently shorting out the device. Practically, this means your incredibly expensive piece of vital electronic equipment is now an incredibly expensive lesson about the importance of proper lightning protection.

What A Lightning Strike Can Mean For Your Business

Imagine coming into the office tomorrow and all your computers are down. Or your phone system. Or your web server. Or…well, you get the idea. We rely on our electronics, particularly to complete our work, whether it’s for tracking data, processing sales, or communicating with customers. The office can also be intensely uncomfortable if your central heating and air go down.

Of course, if you have a good IT manager, you should have a rock-solid disaster recovery plan in place for fire, flood, burglary, and even a lightning strike, but the very best disaster recovery plan is always going to be the one you never have to use. To avoid having to fall back on your recovery plan (and having to stress out your IT staff), here are some steps you should be taking to prevent lightning damage.

Protecting Your Business From A Lightning Strike

1. Lightning Rods To Disperse Direct and Indirect Strikes

The very best protection from lightning damage to a building is also the oldest: lightning rods. Of course, modern lightning rods are a bit more sophisticated than the ones Ben Franklin dreamed up back in 1749. Modern lightning rods are part of complete lightning protection systems that work to safely direct lightning around or through a building without allowing the excess voltage to damage or destroy electronics inside. Modern systems also severely reduce or even eliminate the possibility of a side-flash which is an arc of electricity that can jump across gaps and damage devices and even injure bystanders.

 2. Voltage Arresters Help Stop Excess Voltage Traveling From Utility Lines or Other Buildings

Voltage arresters, sometimes called lightning or surge arresters, are just like the surge protectors that you should be using between your wall outlets and your electronics (you are using surge protectors, right?) except they effectively separate the high voltage exterior wiring and power lines from the more delicate interior wiring and equipment. In most cases, this will protect devices inside your building from dangerous voltage spikes, whether from issues with utility lines to indirect lightning strikes. This, coupled with a modern breaker box and surge protectors (we recommend ones from APC) for every outlet, should go a long way towards protecting your devices. This is especially important for refrigeration units, HVAC, web and data servers, and other equipment that is impractical to just unplug during a storm.

3. An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) Keeps Your Irreplaceable Devices Safer

If you have a data server, important desktop computer, or other devices that would be tremendously expensive, difficult, or even impossible to replace, it’s best to it separated from the wall outlet by a UPS device. A UPS provides a battery backup in the event of a power outage, and some models will even completely filter all electricity that passes through it by only powering the device in question with electricity from the contained battery. This provides time for a safe, data-saving shutdown of important work, and it provides even more protection from an electrical surge.

4. A Good Disaster Recovery Plan Helps Get Your Business Back on Track When Things Go Wrong

Every business should have a disaster recovery plan in place, especially those that rely on electronics like the point of sale systems, and IT phone services. A good disaster recovery plan includes steps for containing the effects of a disaster, as well as minimizing the potential for downtime. Insurance may cover the cost of damaged devices, but without a well-regimented plan for getting your business back up and running quickly, long periods of downtime can kill almost any business, especially small businesses without much liquid capital in reserve. Fortunately, taking advantage of some of these tips can help keep your downtime to a minimum, and make it easier for your business to both avoid disaster and bounce back from one.


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