Featured image: Stock

Africa is the lightning capital of the world! According to NASA’s lightning tracking technology, which has recorded every lightning strike to hit the earth for the past 18 years, some regions in Africa have the largest lightning flash indexes in the world. These statistics have serious consequences for lightning protection designers who design lightning protection systems (LPSes) for structures in high lightning flash regions of Africa.

In 2017, lightning deaths in the United States (US) reached an all-time low of 16 deaths in that country’s recorded history, this is according to a year-end report recently published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

When lightning fatalities first started being recorded in the US, the annual number of deaths were as high as 432 in 1943, however the numbers have decreased tremendously over the decades.

“When you consider the geographic size and population figures of the United States as a country, these latest figures are highly commendable,” says Trevor Manas, the national director of South Africa’s Earthing and Lightning Protection Association (ELPA). Read more: Lightning protection – air termination system design

ELPA aims to assist with providing industry accreditations, certification and benchmarks for quality of design and installation, as well as information and education on lightning safety, explained Manas.

He notes the following aims and projects carried out by ELPA:

  • Certification exams for lightning protection installers;
  • Lightning protection design;
  • And surge protection installations for electricians who carry out surge protection installations.

High number of lightning fatalities

In contrast to the US, Manas underlined that South Africa has a disturbingly high number of lightning fatalities annually.

“While the average number of local annual lightning deaths is not always easy to estimate, due to such factors as the unrecorded deaths of homeless people and those who are killed by lightning and buried quickly due to cultural beliefs, the South African Weather Service has nonetheless estimated a figure of over 300 recorded deaths every year, while acknowledging that this figure could, in fact, be skewed higher,” he stated.

He said ELPA is determined to implement all programmes necessary, including educational, in its quest to make serious inroads into the improved protection of life and property.

A delegation from the organisation including Manas and Richard Evert, recently attended the annual conference of United Lightning Protection Association (ULPA)/LPI (Lightning Protection Institute) in Florida in the US to learn more about what the US is doing right to spread awareness and save lives.

“It really was a great privilege for ELPA to be able to attend this world-renowned body of lightning expertise and learn from those who have such a long official history within the lightning protection industry,” said Manas.

African Utility Week