How to Protect Your Business Structure from Lightning

If you live or work in an area where a lot of storms happen, enough so that lightning strikes are something to worry about, you may want to look into a few different ways to protect your business structure or your house from a lightning strike.

The problem with lightning is that it can come very quickly, and you never really know where it is going to hit.

Having something in place to keep anything from happening will ensure that your structure stays standing for years to come.

One of the most common implementations that you can make to protect your building is to get a lightning protection system, better known as a lightning rod.

These are usually set up near the building in order to attract the lightning strike and then neutralize it before it travels back into the ground.

By having it travel into the ground, essentially it will dissipate and not be of any danger to the building or surrounding trees at all.

You can get an older style lightning rod put in place, or something that is a bit more modern instead.

The more modern models are basically made up of a series of small copper and aluminium spikes which are now called air terminals.

These air terminals are mounted on the highest points of a house or a business building, usually at the top of the roof, a chimney if it exists, and other high points on dormers.

One building can have as many as ten or more, depending on its size and the shape of it.

Not to mention, if there are many high points, you can fit many on the roof.

By setting up a lightning protection system at your building you can save yourself from a lot of damage later on.

When lightning strikes a building or a tree, sometimes a fire can easily break out due to the sparks created.

If you have something to protect the building in place, you can actually send the current into the ground safely, and out of the way of everything that could possibly catch fire.

It will end up saving you a lot of time and money down the line.

Many places of business should actually have some sort of protection system in place, that way they can continuously protect their structures in the case of a major storm breaking out.

It is better to be well prepared than have something happen.

How Does a Lightning Protection System Work?

There is an old axiom, which states that ‘lightning never strikes the same place twice’.

Where this expression comes from is hard to determine, although it is quite safe to state that it is wrong.

Why is it wrong?

Ask the Blackpool Tower.

Home of the iconic Tower Ballroom this 19th century structure has been hit more than once. The most significant strike happened as recently as July 2016.

So if such iconic buildings can be struck, repeatedly as it turns out why don’t we hear more about it in the news?

The simple response is that they have well designed and maintained lightning protection systems.

In very simple terms a lightning conductor (or rod) is often a copper based alloy mounted at the highest point of a structure and then connected to a grounding point via heavy-duty conductor cables. While this passive approach to lightning protection provides an effective means of preventing excess damage to a structure, the risk of damage to electrical and electronic devices can remain a threat.

Although buildings with a steel frame do seem to fare better during a lightning strike, the risk of fire still remains. This is because loft spaces and wall insulation can begin to burn and it is not until there is a sufficient build up of heat that a fire alarm will sound. The main reason that steel framed buildings fare slightly better that those without is because the steels act as conductors to the ground.

Having a steel frame will not guarantee safety though, as pointed out above the risk of fire remains. To this end, it is always going to be good practice to install some form of lightning protection system:

Passive systems are relatively inexpensive to install and with regular inspect/maintenance can easily last the life of the building they are installed on.

A financial benefit of a passive system is there is little to wrong, the lightning conductor itself is a sturdy unit as you can imagine. The grounding points are equally robust so it is the conductor cables that require the closest inspection. The conductor cables need to be of low impedance to work efficiently and reduce the risk of damage to electronic devices.

Some structures are fitted with an external wire mesh, or Faraday cage which, can further reduce the risk of harm to not only the structure of the building but also the contents and occupants. The Faraday cage works by distributing the electrical charge around the exterior of the cage, so the massive charge from the lightning leaves the interior of the ‘cage’ unharmed.

The principal of the Faraday cage was adapted by Dr Austin Richards to create a Faraday suit. From this point he used a Tesla coil to create a show called Dr Megavolt.

Addressing The Equality Act With DDA Handrails

DDA Handrails Equality Act

National statistics show that there are over 11 million adults with a long-term illness. They form a significant percentage of UK consumers so making retail premises and public buildings accessible is critical for business as well as a legal requirement.

Reading the Equality Act 2010 (DDA) shows that businesses and public services must take reasonable steps to remove any physical barriers that make access difficult for the less abled.

What qualifies as reasonable?

The DDA doesn’t actually define what is reasonable and it is all down to the individual businesses to judge what is actually reasonable. Retailers should find out how effective, how practical and the cost of it as well. Ultimately though, only a court can decide what is, and what is not reasonable and companies who have a lot of financial resources are expected to do a lot more when compared to those who don’t have a lot of money.

Planning Tips

DDA Handrails Access

An access audit evaluates the accessibility of your building and it follows the less able visitor’s path of travel. It also covers their arrival and their entry into the premises. When you do conduct an access audit, businesses can then work to identify what they need to try and change in order to make it accessible. Large premises may have a lot of issues that they need to resolve and they need to split these into short, medium and long term sections with priorities.

A key point to take into consideration is the overall height of the handrail and whether a second, lower rail will need to be included. Then there is the consideration of the distance from the wall or partition required for the rail to be of use. After all, if the rail is placed too close to a wall the potential for injury grows.

The DDA standard for handrail height is calculated from the pitch line of the surface of the flight of steps or ramp and should be between 900mm and 1000mm. The clearance from the adjacent wall to the handrail should be between 60mm and 75mm but should not project more than 100mm into surface width of steps, landings or ramps.

Although this may seem obvious to someone familiar with DDA handrail design it is all too easy to overlook. When retrofitting an access-way it is key to take into consideration just how much space the handrails will use in relation to the purpose of the access.

The final step of the initial planning should allow for a minimum of 300mm extension at both the top and bottom nosing of the a flight or flights of steps or a ramped access, while not protruding into an access route.

During the planning phase of a new build consideration should be given to the profile of any ramps to be installed. The maximum angle and height per ramp advised for a hand-propelled wheelchair is a 4.8º angle (1:12) and 500mm with an advised width of 1500mm.

The handrails that run alongside the ramp must comply with the above height regulation with the 300mm extension at the top and bottom of a ramp complete with closed ends. Although on landings the maximum height can be extended to 1100mm.

DDA handrail design can easily accommodate most stair riser situations without the need for specially engineered components. Kee Access Components provide a wide range of fittings that are suitable for virtually any modification.

General Access Considerations

Access to and from premises is an important consideration. The following points should be central to planning:

  • Access solutions should respect the convenience of those who are less abled.
  • Use of space – such as when adjusting an existing space, ramp or stairwell
  • Building regulations should comply with physical adjustments.
  • The intended use of the handrail does not impede emergency access.
  • The handrail should be secured to the mounting brackets with either rivets or screws in order to prevent rotation.
  • Where handrails are joined use internal couplings (Type 514-7) to maintain continuity.
  • The handrail, mounts, couplings and adjacent surfaces should be free of anything sharp or abrasive.
  • The handrail does not impede access to doorways.

One solution is DDA Compliant Handrails. They provide a cost-effective and practical means to make a premises accessible.

 

What is a DDA Compliant Handrail?

DDA Compliant HandrailsHandrails provide a safe means of access for all. This is especially true for those who find it hard to climb or descend steps. If you have a wide flight of stairs then you will need to have handrails that divide this up into channels. If you have steps that are over 1800mm then it is highly recommended that you use them to divide the flight of stairs into channels that are 1000mm or less. If you have two or more risers then you need to provide a continuous handrail on either side.

DDA handrails should:

  • have a smooth surface and not cold to touch
  • be an ergonomic shape that is easy to group such as circular or oval. The diameter of the handrail should be no more than 50mm for an oval design and between 40 to 45mm for a circular design
  • be easy to see by the use of visually contrasting colours but should not be reflective
  • have a smooth finish to prevent clothing from being caught

Finish compatibility

As mentioned previously a DDA handrail design should be finished in such a way that it is smooth to the touch, while having a non-slip and not cold to touch coating. The colour of this coating should contrast the nearby walls in order to be easily recognisable by the visually impaired but not be reflective.

Fasteners used to joint the component parts of the handrail should be used in such a way as to not produce sharp of abrasive edges that could cause injury. These fasteners should be used for both stairway and ramp handrails.

DDA Access is Kee

Building Regulations and the Equality Act make it very clear that a significant percentage of the population require access to public and commercial buildings. It shouldn’t be a second thought for companies to design access this way.

Our Guide to DDA Compliant Handrails provides an in-depth look at the considerations that need to be taken when it comes to accessible handrail systems. It’s free to download here.