It’s theorized that lightning strikes may have played an integral role in the origins of life on our planet (1) and it’s widely considered the source of fire that we humans eventually learned to control and use for our benefit (2).
While it’s provided our species with so much over the millennia, lightning can also cause widespread harm to modern society by igniting forest fires and bringing devastation to a family home.
With climate change said to be increasing the frequency and severity of storms, including right here in Ontario, cases of lightning damage will be on the rise as well.
HOW LIGHTNING CAN DAMAGE YOUR HOME
Damage can be caused by lightning in several obvious and other more subtle ways. It’s important to know the risks and how to reduce them.
1. DIRECT LIGHTNING STRIKES
The most obvious type of damage lighting can cause is when it directly impacts your home.
It can cause physical damage to your home’s structure by cracking brick and stone which can impact anything from your chimney to your home’s foundation.
Along with the physical damage that a strike can cause, lightning can also trigger a fire.
Even if the lighting strike itself does not result in an immediate fire, the electrical wiring in your home can become compromised after a strike which can lead to a fire in the future.
HOW TO PREVENT DAMAGE FROM DIRECT LIGHTNING STRIKES
There isn’t a whole lot we can do to prevent lightning from striking our house but there are things we can do to help reduce the amount of risk and damage.
- Replace wood roof shingles with fire-resistant asphalt shingles
- Unplug computers and appliances during a storm to reduce the paths the lightning can follow and help avoid electrical shorts
- To protect your health, avoid taking baths or showers during a lightning storm
IS DAMAGE CAUSED BY LIGHTNING STRIKES COVERED BY HOME INSURANCE?
Yes! Lightning strikes sparking fire or causing other direct impact damage would be covered under any homeowner insurance policy offered by Erie Mutual Insurance.
2. FALLING TREES OR BRANCHES
Large trees are often most at risk during a lightning storm since they typically stand taller than other nearby structures, including your home.
Large branches or even entire trees can be knocked down by a lightning strike which can then fall into your fence or onto your shed, garage or home causing serious damage.
Something else to consider if your home is less than 25 feet from a tall tree is the concept of a “side flash”, which means the current of a lightning strike can jump from a larger object (i.e. a tree) to a smaller object (i.e. your home) if they’re in close enough proximity. (3)
HOW TO PREVENT DAMAGE FROM FALLING TREES OR BRANCHES
Any trees that have branches hanging over any part of your property create a risk that can be relatively easily avoided by having the trees trimmed back or even removed altogether.
This is often something required of you by your home insurance company before they can take on your policy.
After a lightning strike, the structural integrity of a tree can be severely compromised so if you didn’t get around to removing it before the storm you certainly want to after it’s struck.
If a tree holds a certain historical, environmental or sentimental value there are lightning protection systems available that can help dissipate electrical charge before it builds to high levels, reducing the chances of the tree being struck. (4)
IS DAMAGE CAUSED BY FALLING TREES OR BRANCHES COVERED BY HOME INSURANCE?
Yes! Lightning striking a tree and the tree falling on the home or fence would be covered by any home insurance policy offered by Erie Mutual Insurance.
The initial peril is still lightning for the damage to be claimed, but the homeowner policy will also include an insured peril for “Falling Object” which means a falling object which strikes the exterior of the “dwelling” or building (this would include fences, sheds etc,.)
3. POWER OUTAGES CAN CAUSE SUBSEQUENT DAMAGE TO A HOME
Every homeowner relies on a steady power source to help operate and maintain their property. However, there are many homes in situations where power is relied on to keep a home safe.
Sump pumps for example help prevent flooding in homes that are more susceptible to collecting water but they rely on a power source to move water away from the foundation of the home.
If lightning knocks out the power and a sump pump does not have a battery backup or backup generator in place, a home’s basement can flood quickly from the heavy rain that often accompanies a lightning storm.
There are other risks to a home when the power supply is knocked out such as freezing pipes (if the weather is cold enough and the furnace isn’t running), no access to medical equipment like a stair climber and the increased fire risk associated with using candles for lighting.
HOW TO PREVENT DAMAGE CAUSED BY POWER OUTAGES
It’s crucial to have a backup emergency power source that becomes activated when the primary power is knocked out.
If all else fails, having your basement properly organized is your last line of defence to reduce or avoid sewer backup-related damage.
IS DAMAGE CAUSED BY POWER OUTAGES COVERED BY HOME INSURANCE?
It depends. A power outage leading to sump pump failure and sewer backup would be covered if the homeowner policy includes sewer/sump backup coverage. This is dependent on if your insurance provider offers this coverage and if you have elected to have it included on your policy.
In some situations, this coverage may require a physical inspection and approval by the insurer.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have about this or any other topic related to your insurance.
Erie Mutual Insurance proudly serves the commercial insurance, farm insurance, home insurance and auto insurance needs of members throughout Southern Ontario including Haldimand, Niagara and Hamilton.