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The Property Man

How to safeguard your home from lightning


April 23, 2014: Huge lightning strikes cross the skies as thunderstorms supercells pass through areas in Archer City, Texas. (Reuters)

Take it from someone who has spent a lifetime in Vegas. When it comes to matters of chance, the people who come out ahead are those who are aware of the probability of an event, understand the degree of luck that influences the outcome and pay attention to the skills needed to navigate the unexpected.

The National Lightning Safety Institute calculates that there is a 1-in-200 chance of a structure being hit by lightning. Every year, lightning strikes cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to machinery, equipment, electronics and buildings. Even if you are lucky and a direct strike doesn’t cause a fire, as it did in Coach Holtz’s home, lightning can cause damage to your plumbing, heating and air conditioning, compromise your electrical system and damage computers, televisions and other appliances.

Lightning enters homes in one of three ways: by directly hitting the home; through wires; or through pipes that extend outside the structure and into the ground. Once inside your home, lightning can travel through the electrical system, phone wiring, plumbing and radio and TV receivers. It can also travel through metal rebar or wires in concrete walls or flooring.

The most important thing is to safeguard your family and yourself:

  • Make sure your house is equipped with smoke and fire detectors. Lightning is so hot that fires caused by direct strikes are instantaneous. If you smell smoke or feel heat during a storm, evacuate the building immediately.
  • Make sure all of your appliances are plugged into grounded outlets that offer surge protection. This will not protect against a direct strike, but it may help if there is an electrical surge in a storm. For maximum safety, unplug computers, televisions, microwaves and other electric appliances during storms.
  • If you live in a high strike area, consult professionals about installing lightning rods or whole house surge protection.

Acts of nature can affect more than your physical and material security. They can also wreak havoc on your finances. Having a good home insurance policy helps protect you against catastrophic events, so don’t dismiss it as a “necessary evil.” Having peace of mind is priceless. When shopping for home insurance be sure to:

  • Calculate the right amount. Have an independent professional – not your real estate or insurance agent – provide an assessment.
  • Save money by making your home as safe as possible before you purchase a policy. Install alarm systems, update your heating and wiring systems and maintain exterior features like stairs and driveways. A good credit score can also help you save money on a policy.
  • Document your assets. Make a list or – even better – a video, and store it in a fireproof lock box or a safe deposit box at your local bank.
  • Know what extras you need. Floods and earthquakes are not usually covered in a general homeowner policy.
  • Read the fine print. For example, your policy may not cover damage from an electrical surge that occurs when lightning strikes the power line that runs to your home.

Natural disasters like floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes and storms all pose threats to physical and financial security. You can’t control Mother Nature, but you can rely on more than just luck to limit the damage that she can cause.

Robert Massi joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1996 and currently serves as a legal analyst as well as host of Bob Massi is the Property Man, part of FNC’s weekend lineup (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET / encore Sunday, 3 p.m. ET). The program highlights the various facets of the housing industry and features experts who break down current property trends and pricing deals. Massi appears weekly on Fox & Friends for his segments “Rebuilding Dreams” and “Legal Ease” along with appearing at other times on Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network (FBN) for real estate and legal segments.