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Protecting your church from lightning

They say that lightning never strikes twice. But let’s face it: we don’t even want it to strike once! A single bolt of lightning hitting your church can contain up to one billion volts of electricity.  Not only can this damage the fabric of the building itself, sending masonry and timbers crashing to the floor, lightning is also a well-known cause of fire. It’s because of this fire risk that some churches have lost considerable portions of their roofs after lightning strikes.

In addition to structural damage and any resultant fires, lightning also causes indirect damage to electrical systems and equipment. The huge surge of electricity can cause malfunctions and shutdowns and burn out wiring. Computers, electric organs, phones, alarm systems, audio-visual equipment are all at risk. Based on claims we receive at Methodist Insurance, it is our experience that roughly 60% of insurance claims for lightning damage to churches are for electrical wiring and equipment rather than structural damage.

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Lightning rods and conductors

While it’s impossible to completely remove the risk of lightning strikes, the traditional defence of a lightning conductor is an effective measure to prevent damage. Older churches tend to have what is known as a Franklin rod leading from the top of the building to a stake buried in the ground. One of these rods is sufficient for a smaller church. Some churches, particularly more modern ones, have what is known as a Faraday Cage system. This is a mesh of conductors laid at intervals over the roof and down the walls of the church, and connected to the ground by earth electrodes.

While you might assume that all churches have lightning conductors, in fact they do not. Figures for Methodist churches are not available, but recent estimates suggest that around 20% of Anglican churches have no form of lightning protection present. A church with no lightning protection is five times more likely to suffer structural damage as the result of a strike than a church with a conductor fitted. Take a moment to check if your church has a protection system.

Advice on lightning and insurance

The team at Methodist Insurance offers this advice on lightning:

tick box Your Church Shield policy provides protection against damage caused by lightning

tick box While Methodist Insurance does not insist that your church has lightning protection in order to insure it, we do advise having one fitted if a risk assessment indicates one is required

tick box Lightning conductors need to be maintained properly if they are to be effective. They need to be inspected at least every four years, although we recommend every two-and-a-half years

tick box If your church has one of the older lightning protection systems, it does not need to be upgraded unless one of our risk assessments concludes that an upgrade is necessary

tick box You can prevent electrical equipment being damaged by power surges by installing surge protection equipment

tick box Any work on a church’s lightning protection system should be conducted by a competent contractor such as a member of ATLAS (Association of Technical Lightning and Access Specialists)

For more information call the team on 0345 606 1331

Methodist Insurance PLC (MIC) Reg. No. 6369. Registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester, GL1 1JZ. Methodist Insurance PLC is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, Firm Reference Number 136423.