Big black clouds could be looming over the future of your business. But the dangers will not necessarily come from an unpredictable and gloomy future, but could at anytime come from those dark cumulonimbus thunder clouds that regularly appear in the skies above us.
More to the point the biggest threat to business property is the danger that lies within those storm clouds. Lightning!
Lightning is a visible electric discharge between clouds or clouds and objects on the ground.
Material damage may occur to business property from the high power travelling to earth through a structure, and the release of energy being such that it causes extensive damage to the structure which in some cases leads to the buildings collapse.
A bolt of lightning can strike a building in an all round circle of as much as ten miles beyond the edge of a thunderstorm and anywhere below the mass of turbulent air. Buildings and commercial property can be struck by a bolt from the blue hours before a slow-moving storm reaches the premises.
According to the Office of National Statistics around 1500 properties in the UK are hit by lightning each year of which around a half are commercial properties. The incidence of lightning strikes against commercial property being so high, is due to the fact that blocks of flats and large industrial buildings and towers, have a higher propensity to be struck by a bolt, literally!
Lightning Risk Management
Regardless of any business insurance cover that may be in place, all businesses and enterprises should take the necessary steps to minimise any damage or loss that could be caused by lightning or may occur as a result of a lightning strike.
All commercial buildings should be protected by a lightning conductor system.
The purpose of the installation is to direct the current discharged from the bolt safely to earth thereby protecting the building’s structure and its occupants from the worst effects of the lightning strike.
Burning damage may occur, often within the electrical wiring of a premises, which can lead to a general fire and ignite stock or office equipment. Depending upon what is being stored on the business premises, in particular if hazardous materials are involved, the risk from fire may be greater. For example a hardware shop, a chemical plant or a paper warehouse.
Electrical equipment is particularly at risk from power surges and it is not just office business equipment that is at risk. There has been a spate of recent incidents of lightning inducing high voltages and currents in computer installations and Internet server farms.
Fires arising from lightning strikes and the risks of subsequent losses can be minimised by ensuring that the lightning protection system is always in good working order and all alarms function correctly.
The continuity of the conductors is imperative for functionality and can be broken during building repairs or ground excavations.
If lightning conductors are disturbed by building works they should be repaired straight away.
It is also important for a small business to implement a regular servicing and testing regime and most insurance polices will insist upon this for the cover to be effective.
If you live in an area where the frequency of storms and lightning damage is higher, listening to long range weather forecasts can help a business prepare for storms and give a company time to take necessary steps to protect the business property.
Nearly all business insurance policies designed to cover commercial property will have a provision for lightning material damage loss and consequential business interruption under the basic perils risk coverage.
The risk of lightning is covered under perils in either the buildings or contents section of a commercial property insurance policy. it is available to property owners, lease-holders or tenants to cover their contents against such loss.