South Carolina ranked tenth place in claims resulting from lightning in 2013, with more than $5 million in claims paid out, according to State Farm Insurance.
That figure represents a total of 896 claims filed that year. Georgia ranked at the top of the list with nearly 3,000 claims totaling $14.8 million, according to a release from the insurance company.
Spring and summer months bring the biggest chance of lightning strikes, and the Insurance Information Institute says lightning strikes cost nearly $1 billion annually in insured losses, as the number of personal electronics in homes and businesses rise.
Plasma and high-definition television sets, home entertainment centers, multiple computers, smart phones, gaming systems and other electronic devices have a significant impact on the number and price tag for claims.
The data comes days before Lighting Safety Awareness Week, which runs June 22-28, a campaign from the Lightning Protection Institute. LPI recommends the following steps to protect homes and businesses from costly lightning-related damage:
- For protection from lightning strikes in the general area of your home or an externally produced surge, a whole-house surge protector is the best starting point for reducing the risk of damage or a fire.
- Install additional protection for important or expensive electronic equipment. This should include localized surge protection for power cords to the electronic equipment and any telephone and cable/satellite TV lines connecting to the equipment.
- Make sure all equipment is UL-listed and properly labeled.
- Lightning protection systems are designed to protect a structure and provide a specified path to harness and safely ground the super-charged current of the lightning bolt. The system neither attracts nor repels a strike, but receives the stroke and routes it harmlessly into the earth, thus discharging the dangerous electrical event. Be sure the lightning protection system is designed and installed in accordance with accepted industry standards.
According to LPI, 28 people died in lighting strikes in 2013. The majority of them were children and young men between the ages of 10 and 35 who were engaged in recreation or work. The institute urges people to treat lightning with proper caution.
Anyone outside when a thunderstorm approaches should seek shelter inside an enclosed building if possible. Once inside, safety experts recommend people stay off the telephone, as a surge could travel along telephone lines. People seeking shelter should also avoid standing near open windows, doorways or metal piping; television sets, plumbing, sinks, tubs, radiators and stoves. Contact with small electric appliances should also be avoided, experts say.
If a building is not available, experts recommend taking shelter inside a car with a metal top with the windows and doors closed.
Beaches, lakes, open water, boats and docks, golf carts, farm equipment and motorcycles and bicycles are considered "extremely hazardous locations" during a thunderstorm, according to LPI.
Anyone caught outdoors should avoid seeking shelter under a tree and look for a place of lower elevation.