by Penny M. Hagerman
Sporadic storms that sprout tornadoes, dump volumes of heavy rain, and light up the sky with millions of volts of electricity have many of us scratching our heads in wonderment this year. But along with those strange weather events comes another phenomenon that’s even more dangerous and costly: lightning.
A silent, often unrecognized enemy that leaves hundreds of millions of dollars worth of injury, death and damage in its wake, lightning normally strikes about 250,000 times and kills an average of 73 people each year—more than hurricanes or tornadoes.
Lightning and Home Insurance
Our home insurance policies protect our homes from lightning damage. The comprehensive portion of our auto insurance—should we choose to purchase it—covers damage to our vehicles.
If, God forbid, we or a family member get struck by lightning, our health insurance policies cover our medical treatment, and help pay doctor and emergency bills.
Since 2004, the number of lightening-related insurance claims filed by policyholders and paid by insurance companies has dropped almost eleven-and-a-half percent. However, the average cost per claim has increased dramatically, escalating nearly 64 percent over the past five years.
The Culprits: High-Dollar Electronics & Severe Weather
Why the huge jump? you might ask. Experts like the Insurance Information Institute, the foremost authority on insurance-related matters, blame increased claims cost on two things:
- Severe storms
- A proliferation of high-dollar consumer electronics in our homes
Though we enjoy having computers, sound systems, high-definition televisions, gaming systems and similar electronics at our fingertips in nearly every room of the house, the abundance of these types of high-dollar items has a significant impact on insurance claims losses, says the I.I.I.
In fact, between 2004 and 2008, the average lightning-related claim increased from a little over $2,600 to more than $4,300 per claim, due largely to lightning-related damage to home consumer electronics.
Safety Tips for You and Your Family
Your chances of being struck by lightning are approximately 1 in 600,000. To reduce those numbers and keep yourself and your family safe when lightning strikes, follow these safety tips, courtesy of The Lightning Protection Institute.
- Stay away from doors, windows and electrical appliances.
- Stay off the telephone.
- Avoid contact with sinks, baths and water faucets.
- When storms approach, go to an area of lower elevation.
- Stay away from solitary trees, open areas, hilltops, metal objects and bodies of water.
- Seek shelter nearby in your home or car.
- If you feel tingling, your hair stands on end or you smell sulfur, crouch down immediately and cover your ears.
- Never lie flat on the ground. Maintain as little contact with the ground as possible.
Safety Tips for Your Home
Lightening is a powerful force that can quickly cause damage or destroy your home. Follow these tips to keep your home safe, from the Institute of Business and Home Safety and the I.I.I.:
- Install a lightning-protection system to intercept lightning and guide it harmlessly to the ground.
- Make sure your home’s electrical system is properly grounded.
- Unplug expensive electronic equipment before storms approach.
- Use surge protectors to keep lightning from destroying costly electrical systems and home electronics, and starting fires.
While we can’t control the weather, we can take steps to protect ourselves, our families and our homes from the effects of lightning.
So don’t underestimate the power of lightning. Instead, do your part to lower insurance rates—and keep loved ones, your home and possessions safe.