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Lightning Risk

Amy Brown Comments

Lightning is a great threat to self-storage facilities, especially since storage owners are becoming more reliant on electronic communication and security. Losses from lightning strikes can damage a facility’s structure, grounds, computers, security systems, electronic gates and even cash registers. To prepare for these disasters, owners can use a variety of methods to protect their facilities. The use of lightning monitors to draw your attention to approaching storms, proper use of surge protectors, and insurance coverage should soften the blow if lightning strikes.

Lightning is an electrical discharge that rebalances the differences between positive and negative charges within a cloud, between two clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. Property damage and injuries result from cloud-to-ground strikes. When lightning strikes people and objects, it is because the negative charge at the cloud’s base is attracted to the positive charge at the earth’s surface. The strike sends large voltages, allowing it to destroy what it touches.


Lightning can cause many types of damage, some more obvious than others:

  • Fire is a common result of lightning strikes, because of the heat and voltage they create.
  • Lightning currents that hit a building may dislodge some of its components, such as bricks or roofing. This poses a risk for greater property damage and even injuries.
  • Lightning may damage roof-mounted equipment, such as air-conditioners. If you run a climate-controlled facility, this could pose a problem for tenants’ stored items.
  • Lightning can cause objects, such as trees or telephone poles, to collapse onto surrounding structures.
  • Lightning can cause explosions if it strikes an area that houses gaseous materials, such as cleaning and maintenance products. Take precautions against the storage of flammable goods. Tenants may not realize items such as tires and cleaning materials are a fire hazard. Make it clear that storing hazardous or toxic materials is not allowed, and reinforce the policy by including it in the lease agreement. Remind existing tenants of this policy by posting signs in the rental office and around the facility.
  • Lightning causes power surges and damage to desktop computers and electronic equipment, such as security systems and electronic gates. The voltage from a strike can penetrate buildings and travel inside on the lines and through buried cables. Damage to security and gate systems can pose additional risks if left unattended. If a surge knocks out your security cameras or alarm, the threat of theft or vandalism heightens. If your gate system is damaged, the risk of injuries and security breaches are increased.

There are preventive measures you can take to control damage caused from lightning. Consider using a lightning monitor if your facility is in an area prone to storms. These devices continuously listen to radio signals and draw your attention to an approaching storm. To prepare your facility, take down antennas, unplug computer equipment, and double-check surge protectors. To reduce the risk of brush fires, periodically have trees and bushes trimmed, and rid foliage on and around your property. Always keep your property well-maintained and repaired to avoid intensive lightning damage.

Despite the use of monitors, surge protectors and preventive maintenance, lightning continues to be a major cause of damage to electronic equipment and buildings. If the worst should happen to your facility, you want to be adequately insured. Lightning-strike losses are considered a covered peril in most insurance policies, which could provide coverage for your building and any business personal property, such as computer equipment, if damaged during a lightning storm.

Having proper coverage will minimize repair and replacement costs. Secure a policy that includes coverage if you have to shut down your facility to repair a damaged security system. Business income insurance could cover financial losses that occur throughout the time of repair.

Universal Insurance Facilities Ltd. offers a comprehensive package of coverages specifically designed to meet the needs of the self-storage industry. For more information, or to get a quick, no-obligation quote, write P.O. Box 40079, Phoenix, AZ 85067-0079; call 800.844.2101; fax 480.970.6240; e-mail; visit

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