What happens when lightning strikes a house?

If your home ever gets struck by lightning, you will hear a very loud, powerful boom that might shake your entire house. You may feel like there is an increased pressure in your home. You may see a bright flash of light.  You may lose power, temporarily or permanently. You may or may not see visible damage to your home.

While staying inside your home, away from doors and windows, is the safest place to be during a storm, a couple of dangers exist inside the home when lightning is involved.

Power Surges: When lightning strikes a house, the electricity often surges through a home’s wiring or plumbing system, searching for the quickest possible route to the ground. Make sure to unplug any electronics (especially valuable ones like TVs or computers), or they could be destroyed. Avoid running water during a lightning storm. You could get electrocuted if you are touching or standing near water or any electronics that are plugged into walls.

Fire: When lightning shoots through a home, there’s a risk for fire. The most common place for a fire to ignite is in the attic, when a lightning bolt comes through the roof or top of the house. However, the heat from the electricity of a lightning bolt that runs through the walls inside your plumbing or wiring could start a fire as well. You may notice it immediately, or it may burn slowly inside the walls unnoticed for some time.

What to do if your house gets struck by lightning

  1. First, make sure everyone is okay. If you see fire or smell smoke, evacuate your home immediately. DO NOT go looking for a fire, as a dangerous condition could exist in a hidden space or enclosed spaces such as the attic.

  2. Call 9-1-1, and tell them your home was struck by lightning. Do this regardless of whether or not you detect a fire hazard.  It is common for lightning to start fires in the attic and within walls of homes. These fires inside enclosed spaces may not be visible in their beginning stages.

  3. The fire department will come to your property and assess the area for damage, including using thermal imaging cameras to search inside walls to detect heat that could or already has started a fire.

  4. If you use gas for heating and cooking, contact your gas company or a licensed contractor to conduct a leak test before re-entering your home.

  5. Once your home is assessed and found to be safe, you will be able to return inside.

  6. Call your insurance company and explain what has happened.

  7. Call a licensed electrician to come out and inspect your home wiring. 

  8. Homeowners should make sure smoke alarms are present in the home and tested monthly to ensure they work properly.

When in Doubt—Get Out!

The National Lightning Safety Institute estimates that one out of every 200 homes will be struck by lightning each year.   In the last decade in the City of Rockwall, lightning has been the number one known cause of home fires. And CSST has been linked to more than 63% of these fires, which have resulted in nearly $1 million in property damage.  The information here will help you determine if you have CSST in your home, then they can guide you in the next steps you need to take to ensure your family’s safety.