In support of Campus Fire Safety Month

COVID-19 isn’t the only hardship striking schools. Recent accounts of lightning strikes damaging school buildings in Little Rock, Kenton, Naples, Belvidere and other U.S. communities cite details of destructive fires and aggregate surge damage. These lightning-sparked incidents have necessitated costly infrastructure repairs and additional setbacks; heaping on more hardship for school communities already under strain.

While educators are presently focused on preventing the spread of COVID, fire safety is always a concern for schools—especially colleges and universities where large numbers of students reside in campus dormitories and apartments. Since lightning is the weather hazard that impacts every area of our country, it’s important that school administrators, coaches, emergency managers and security personnel understand the threat and develop a plan to protect students and fortify their school structures.

To assist schools in examining their risk, here are three questions to consider for improving safety and reducing exposure to the lightning threat:

Q. What is your school’s evacuation plan in the event of a lightning-sparked incident?

If there isn’t a lightning incident evacuation policy, make this a priority today. Lightning fires aren’t always visible in their initial stages. If a lightning strike is suspected, the building and property should be investigated right away—even when the smoke alarm isn’t sounding and even if there isn’t smoke. A lingering acrid smell or fallen debris can be evidence of a lightning strike, so it’s important that school safety directors and resident managers check attics, enclosed spaces and basements right away. In a fire, seconds count, so be sure to investigate a potential lightning strike immediately and call the fire department for expert guidance. School officials and educators seeking information about fire evacuation will want to review these helpful Campus Fire Safety resources.

Q. Has your school performed a lightning risk assessment or cost-benefit analysis to evaluate lightning protection system (LPS) installations for new construction, building renovation and existing structures?

If you’re not sure how to assess the risk, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides resources. Over the years, architects, safety professionals, building owners and property managers have come to rely on Lightning Risk Assessment methodology found in the NFPA 780 Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems. An experienced and LPI-certified lightning protection provider can assist with risk consultation and LPS measures that meet safety standard requirements.

Q. Is your campus “schooled” in the science of lightning safety?

If your campus doesn’t have an outdoor lightning safety policy, there’s no time like the present to make sure staff and students take the lightning threat seriously to stay vigilant at sporting and recreation events. Mitigating severe weather threats for large groups of people can be challenging, and implementing a lightning safety policy is no exception. Don’t wait for a lightning event to test your school’s storm smarts. The National Lightning Safety Council (NLSC) provides a wealth of resources for school officials. Visit the NLSC website for information, videos, public safety measures, FAQ’s and links for follow-up information.

In summary, having a clearly communicated plan and a best-practice policy can go a long way in preventing a lightning tragedy at your school or campus community.

The National Lightning Safety Council invites educators, school officials and students to support Campus Fire Safety Month and help raise awareness of the importance of fire safety. Visit the Center For Campus Fire Safety and for resources and important fire safety information.

Looking to learn more about lightning safety and lightning protection? Feel free to contact me at