You are on page 1of 12

Lightning Protection in India

Isha Parmar Col. Nayan Pani Disaster Resilient Professionals New Delhi, India

International Symposium on Lightning Protection

12-14 October 2011 Kathmandu, Nepal

(Opinions presented in the paper is personal view of authors)

International Symposium on Lightning Protection Lightning Protection in India

Introduction 1. Lightning is a natural hazard that causes serious economical losses, personal injuries and deaths. When lightning strikes a human being he may be killed, badly injured or saved with few skin burns. Most of the survivors will have long standing psychological trauma. Lightning ignites fires that may bring an entire building or a house down to ashes, thus causing economical losses as well as hazards to human beings through secondary effects (exposure to fire, explosions, falling material etc.). At a lower degree of damage, the lightning current may destroy electrical, electronic and communication equipment, which in turn, may result data losses and operation downtime. Such equipment failure may cause indirect human causalities, especially if the damaged equipment and devices are used for vital medical applications. Many of these damages and losses could be minimized by educating the engineering and general public in safety and protection against lightning. 2. In the world, every year, over 20,000 people are affected by lightning and succumb to their injuries. The number of people who survive with life-time injuries, temporary disabilities and psychological trauma may be several times greater than the figure of death. People, animal and property of several states in India and other countries in South Asia; Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Northern parts of Pakistan are at a risk of being subjected to lightning hazards. The situation is even worse in several central African, Far East Asian and South American countries as they record the highest lightning occurrence density in the world. Reliable information related to lightning deaths and injuries in the South Asian region is scarce due to lack of documentation. However, according to the few studies that has been done in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh during the recent past, the number of lightning related deaths is about 70 per year in Sri Lanka and about 130 in Bangladesh. These studies are based on newspaper reports and medical records so that the actual number may be much higher, especially in Bangladesh, where the information on deaths and injuries in rural areas are hardly transferred beyond the peripherals of the villages in which the incidents occur.

Aim of the Paper 3. Bring out the basic concepts of lightning phenomenon, the lightning threats, essentials of lightning protection, and safety measures that should be taken to minimise lightning hazards

Basic Concepts of Lightning

What is lightning? 4. Lightning is a natural atmospheric phenomenon, which is caused by the instability of charge distribution within a cloud. It also occurs due to charge separation in masses of ash and dust ejected in a volcanic eruption or a nuclear explosion. Generally, a lightning flash originates inside a cloud, several kilometres above the ground level. Except for ball lightning, which is a very rare phenomenon, lightning is simply an electric spark between a cloud and ground, between two clouds or between two parts of a cloud. The spark that jumps between the ends of two wires, which are connected to the terminals of a car battery, is a very basic form of lightning. In the first stage of the lightning strike, a channel of charge flows towards ground from the cloud. When this channel is about 50 -100 meters above, earthbound objects in the vicinity (e.g. trees, buildings, human beings, animals etc.) start sending upward channels of opposite charge to meet the downward channel from the cloud. One of these upward channels succeeds in meeting the downward channel and subsequently large current flows through the object and the object is said to be lightning struck. Figure-2 depicts this phenomenon. 5. The lightning current is a short term transient which lasts for about 100 s. However, in a single lightning flash such electric current may flow several times into ground. The lightning current reaches a maximum value of about30, 000 Amperes on average but currents in the range of 800,000 Amperes have also been reported. Compared to the current that is consumed by our day-today electrical appliances, 5 10 Amperes, the lightning current is enormous. The lightning current, while travelling in air, heats its path to a temperature of about 40,000 degree Celsius. Even comparison with the surface temperature of the Sun, which is about 6000 degrees Celsius, the temperature increment caused by the passage of lightning is extremely high. This large increment in temperature causes a sudden expansion of air trapped in the passage of lightning current. As the surrounding air is at a much lower temperature this rapid expansion of the air column along the path of lightning current gives rise to a shock wave (similar to what happens in a bomb explosion). This shock wave, once travels few tens of meters becomes a sound wave which we call Thunder. As sound waves travel at a speed (about 330 m/s) much smaller than the speed of light (3 x 108 m/s), we see the light of lightning before we hear the sound of thunder. This enables us to calculate the approximate distance to the lightning. The number of seconds between the light and the thunder, divided by 3 is approximately equal to the distance to lightning in km. For an example a 9 s time interval between light and thunder implies that the lightning has struck 3 km away. 6. Once the lightning current flowing in an earth bound object (a tree, flag pole, building etc.) it generates a short term potential difference between two parts of the object along the path of the current (refer Figure-3). The magnitude of this potential difference depends on the resistance between the two points of the object. For an example when the lightning current flows along highly resistive (lets ignore the inductance for the convenience) material such as the wood of a tree, the potential difference generated will be very high. For lightning with large currents this potential difference may reach values exceeding Mega Volts if the two points of concern are far apart. In such cases not only the potential difference but also the heat generated will be massive. On the other hand when the lightning current flows along a good conductor, such as a copper tape the potential difference between two points separated by a similar distance, as in the previous case, will be much less, thus the heat dissipation will also be very small. 7. The potential at the point where the lightning current enters the ground is usually at a large value, typically in the order of several tens of kilo Volts. This potential rapidly decreases as one moves radically

away from the point of injection of current to ground, giving rise to a so called ground potential gradient (refer Figure-3). This potential gradient becomes significantly large if the earth resistance of the soil is high. A potential gradient causes surface currents to flow in many directions from the point of strike. In some experiments done on artificial lightning (so called triggered lightning), it has-been observed that lightning may generate surface flashovers (current that flows on the surface of the ground in the form of sparks) that extends to more than 20 m. Therefore, in the subject of lightning safety this potential gradient plays a significant role.

Lightning Threats

Effects of Lightning 9. To be injured or temporarily disabled one may not essentially be struck by lightning. Even if one is close to the point of strike he may receive lethal injuries to which the victim may succumb. Lightning may injure or kill human beings and animals, basically in five primary ways: (a) Direct strikes: The entire lightning current may pass through or over the body as a result of the lightning being attracted by the body (Figure-4).Example: A person in an open field may be the subject of a direct lightning strike. (b) Side flashes: The entire lightning current or a part of the lightning current may pass through or over the human body due to the transfer of flash from a lightning struck object to a body in the proximity (Figure-5).Example: A person underneath a large tree or inside a tent on wooden poles may be subjected to a side flash if the tree or the tent is struck. (c) Step potential: A partial current may pass through the body if two parts of the body in contact with ground align in the direction of the potential gradient developed due to the injection of current into earth from a nearby lightning strike (Figure-3). Example: The two feet of a person separated in the direction of increasing potential (d) Touch potential: A partial current may pass through the body if part of a body comes in contact with a higher elevation of the lightning struck object while the other part remains in contact with ground. Example: A person touching a flag pole by hand while standing on ground. Accidents due to touch potential may also arise when a person is using line connected telephones, repairing electrical systems connected to the power line or in contact with any metallic part which is exposed to the path of lightning current (e.g. metallic railing from the roof top which is connected to the lightning protection system at the roof top level) (e) Proximity to the strike: The shock wave generated by the lightning current due to the sudden expansion of air may damage the skin or eardrums when a person is very close to the point of strike. There are several secondary effects, such as falling from higher elevations due to the momentary shock, falling of heavy materials from structures(detached due to lightning strike) on the person, burns due to volatile materials in the surrounding catching fire, psychological trauma etc. The passage of current inside the body may lead the person into ventricular fibrillation (unsynchronized muscle operation of the heart), respiratory arrest(inability to breath), burning of vital organs such as brain, liver, kidneys etc. and internal bleeding due to bursting of blood vessels. The person may also suffer from nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing or eyesight. Lightning injuries can lead to permanent disabilities or death. On an average, 20% of strike victims die and 70% of survivors suffer longterm disabilities. These injuries are primarily neurological, with a wide range of symptoms, and are sometimes difficult to cure. (f) A person struck by lightning does not carry any current or charge, hence he should be attended immediately and given first aid. Almost 90% of the lightning related deaths due to primary causes could have been avoided if the deceased had been attended within a short time

period. The vast majority of lightning casualties can be easily, quickly and cheaply avoided if the proper measures are followed. Hence, the general public needs increased awareness of the lightning hazards and knowledge of lightning safety including procedures of essential first aid i.e. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) or at least mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Protection Against Lightning

10. The High Powered Committee of the Government of India on Disaster Management has identified Thunderstorms and Lightning as natural hazards of great concern. The Bureau of Indian Standards purveys lightning protection guidance for structures and the builders are advised to adhere to the prescribed code. Research and Development programmes are being supported on lightning protection and many leading Indian institutes and Laboratories are working on lightning safety. The paper lays stress on spreading the culture of safety against lightning. It deals with the issues, Indian standards and methods of lightning protection, and introduces ongoing awareness programmes and research and development needs for lightning safety in the Indian context. 11. Since Lightning cannot be avoided, the logical way to avert the risks of lightning strike is to find a protection for personal and structural safety. As explained earlier the current passes through the structures or equipment or living beings could be fatal. The protection and safety against lightning can be achieved in two ways (a) (b) Protection through Scientific and technical Methods Mitigation through safety measures

Protection through Scientific and Technical methods 12. Since 1970, after the Franklins invention of Lightning protection rod, there is a remarkable advancement in the science of Lightning Protection. The scientific and technological world has put its entire effort on bringing systems for the protection of valuable infrastructures and equipment against lightning. 13. Complete Lightning Protection systems : (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) 14. Air Termination (vertical, horizontal) Protective angle Down conductors (Number & routing to avert side flashing) Earth Terminations Surge protection Electromagnetic Compatibility

The following standards are being followed in India for lightning protection and safety:

The Indian Code of Practice: Indian Standard: IS 2309: 1989; Protection of Buildings and Allied Structures against Lightning-Code of Practice (Reaffirmed in 2005)

Safety Measures Against Lightning

Introduction 15. At first glance, it would seem reasonable to approach lighting injury prevention in any country by employing the factors that decreased injuries in other countries. Unfortunately, the factors most responsible for the decrease in lightning fatalities in developed countries including population shifts, urbanization, and industrialization of farming, are economic and social factors and not a factor of lightning injury prevention programs. Even factors such as substantial construction, good grounding, and large numbers of metal vehicles may be unattainable, impractical to expect or unaffordable in developing countries. Even the messages used for public education in one country or area may not be effective in another country due to cultural, religious or employment differences. There are usually several steps in any lightning injury prevention program. Recognition of the Risk 16. To effect change, lightning injury must be recognized as a substantial risk to a population. It is helpful to have data on injuries and fatalities to use with government officials, to convince populations that they are at risk, and to raise awareness of lightning danger for groups and individuals. Opportunity 17. While injury prevention efforts are sometimes mundane and methodical, involving studies of the ongoing risk to a population, bringing them to the attention of the local government, public health officials, or others in power to bring about change, sometimes a multi-casualty incident or an incident involving a prominent citizen may occur that can be used as a catalyst for change. Sometimes injuries to a particular worker population may have such an economic impact that business owners develop an interest in prevention. Multidisciplinary Team 18. There are many advantages to forming a team with members from a number of disciplines and interests who can contribute their expertise, ideas, energy, and contacts to reach out and effect change in many different venues. Some of these may be parents, media personnel, educators, and local activists. At least some of the members might be atmospheric physicists/meteorologists with a particular expertise in lightning and an interest in injury prevention, medical personnel who care for the injured to provide expertise and stories, public health, public safety, and other government officials, lightning protection specialists, and risk managers to lend their expertise, authority and contacts. Sometimes sports figures or other prominent role models can be solicited to contribute as spokespersons. 19. Recommend the following to be adopted by the authorities in all concerned countries and practiced with immediate effect. Recommendations Promotion of Safety Awareness among the Public


Deaths and injuries due to lightning could be minimized and public safety could beimproved by: (a) Organizing educational and awareness programs for different target groups by the government and non-government organizations. (b) Including basic concepts of lightning and lightning protection/safety in the school curriculum. (c) Publishing information on lightning, its hazards and precautions.

(d) Displaying proper lightning safety instructions at vulnerable locations such as playgrounds, beaches, etc. 21. Enhancing Technical Knowledge and Skills among Professionals dealing with Lightning Protection Theoretical, technical and practical knowledge as well as skills necessary for implementing lightning protection measures of professionals could be improved by: (a) Organizing technical workshops, seminars, training programs.

(b) Arranging national/international training events with the support of the government and non-governmental organizations. (c) Facilitating professionals to get access to the up-to-date scientific and technical information through electronic media and other means. Protection of Buildings and Structures for the Safety of Occupants and Property 22. Buildings could be protected against lightning through: (a) Education and encouragement to the public by adopting scientifically validated lightning protection measures. (b) Development of national standards or adoption of international standards for lightning protection. (c) Constitution of an authorized body to make recommendations on protection systems and taking necessary steps for minimizing lightning damages. Mitigation of Adverse Effects on Equipment and Systems 23. Damage to electrical, electronic & communication equipment, computer networks and other related systems could be minimized by: (a) Establishing awareness programs for administrative and technical personnel in all (b) Sectors of the economy about appropriate lightning surge protection solutions. (c) Sensitizing manufacturers, importers, designers and installers of protection (d) Systems on the need to use the most appropriate lightning surge protection equipment.

(e) Developing country standards or adopting international standards for lightning surge protection solutions for different sectors (viz. power, communication, computer and data networks, PABX systems, electronic process control systemised.). (f) Monitoring and certifying the quality of protection devices manufactured in the country and/or imported, as well as certifying the installation of these devices by the authorized body. Protection of Towers and Safety Concerns in Adjacent Areas 24. Protection of tower related equipment and safety of the adjacent areas could be ensured by: (a) Training the professionals to identify protective measures for towers and related equipment to ensure appropriate protection measures. (b) Investigating and taking safety measures for possible increase of lightning hazards in areas adjacent to the tall structures. (c) Making it mandatory to have effective earthing systems for towers. (d) Making it mandatory for the tower owners to take appropriate measures to protect the adjacent areas. Protection of Power Systems and Communication Networks 25. Damage to power systems could be minimized by: (a) Investigating the conditions of the existing lightning protection scheme in the power systems. (b) Including appropriate earthing practices and accepted standards in the curricula of engineering institutions. (c) Mandating engineers to maintain regular inspection records. 26. Damage to communication networks could be minimized by: (a) Ensuring compliance with ITU Standards.

(b) Encouraging research in the quality of high frequency earthing systems and communication equipment protection technologies in order to make recommendations to the concerned institutions/service providers to rectify shortcomings. Protection of High Risk Installations 27. Damage to storage of hazardous materials such as inflammable chemicals, explosives, petroleum and ammunition dumps and other high risk installations could be minimized by:


Organizing awareness programs about lightning threats to storage facilities and

institutions that transport or use hazardous materials. (b) (c) (d) Making highest level of structural protection mandatory in such cases. Inspecting the lightning protection systems in such cases on regular basis. Incorporating lightning protection of high-risk installations in national standards.

Development of National Standards on Lighting Protection and Safety 28. by: Adherence to proper lightning safety and protection practices in the country could be promoted


Developing, improving and upgrading national standards/codes for lightning protection

systems for buildings/equipment and their installations. (b) Conducting awareness programs to popularize the standards/codes among the

professionals and public. (c) Making standards mandatory to concerned parties.

Testing and Research Facilities and Data Collection 29. Services provided to manufacturers and importers of lightning protection equipment to test their products against national standards could be enhanced by: (a) Establishing new laboratories and supporting research institutes to upgrade the existing ones. (b) Providing training in modern techniques and methodologies to test facility providers. (c) Providing required facilities to researchers on lightning and lightning protection to commence / continue research on lightning. (d) Networking the country with a lightning detection system so as to enable lightning forecast and data collection. (e) Establishing research groups and institutions to develop databases on lightning accidents and other lightning related occurrences. Local Manufacture of Protective Devices 30. Local entrepreneurs, inventors and researchers could be encouraged to produce lightning protection equipment and technologies suitable to local conditions and national standards through: (a) Financial grants, working facilities, market information, foreign training, etc.

(b) Collaborative programs and forums for exchange of information and sharing theirviews and work experience. Protection of National Heritage Sites 31. Lightning damage free environment could be ensured for national heritage sites by: (a) Investigating the present status of archeologically important sites. (b) Designing and implementing effective and durable protection systems. (c) Regular inspection of the protection systems.

Myths 32. The tallest objects in a storm don't always get struck by lightning. It's true that taller objects are closer to the clouds, but as discussed previously, lightning can strike the ground at a close distance to a tall object. Taller objects may have a higher possibility of a strike, but where lightning is concerned, the strike path is not predictable. 33. Surge protectors won't save your electronics (TV, VCR, PC) if lightning strikes your power line. Surge protectors provide protection for power surges in the line from the power company, but not for lightning. To really guard against strike damage, you need a lightning arrester. The arrester uses a gasfilled gap that acts as an open circuit to low potentials, but becomes ionized and conducts at very high potentials. If the lightning hits the line you are protecting, the gas gap will conduct the current safely to ground. 34. Ben Franklin was not struck by lightning. Contrary to popular school teachings, Mr. Franklin was very lucky to survive his experiment. The spark he saw was a product of the kite/key system being in a strong electric field. Had the kite/key actually been struck, Mr. Franklin would surely have been killed. As we all know now, his experiment was extremely dangerous and should not be repeated. 35. Rubber tires aren't why you're safe in a car during a lightning storm. In strong electric fields, rubber tires actually become more conductive than insulating. You're safe in a car because the lightning will travel around the surface of the vehicle and then go to ground. This occurs because the vehicle acts like a Faraday cage. Michael Faraday, a British physicist, discovered that a metal cage would shield objects within the cage when a high potential discharge hit the cage. The metal, being a good conductor, would direct the current around the objects and discharge it safely to the ground. This process of shielding is widely used today to protect the electrostatic sensitive integrated circuits in the electronics world.