Lightning damage and the insurance company


Thread Starter

Lucas Williams

Over the holiday weekend our office building was struck by lightning. Computers, radios, networking, and an army of other equipment were destroyed. We had reasonable protection on all of
our equipment (UPS and photoisolation) but it didn't take care of the energy that was dancing around the inside walls. The scorch marks on the walls are impressive.

Where should we draw the line on premises wiring? Should we demand that the insurance company pay to have all of the networking replaced? One of my process control PCs survived the incident with only a blown Dialogic card and modem. Should I still replace the entire computer? If so, am I in for a fight with the
insurance company?

How have you dealt with this in regards to your own businesses, processes, and customers?

Thanks for your help.

--Lucas Williams
[email protected]
>One of my process control PCs survived the
>incident with only a blown Dialogic card and modem. Should I still
>replace the entire computer? If so, am I in for a fight with the
>insurance company?

I can't comment on fighting with insurance companies, but if you depend on that computer for an important process, I would replace it. Voltage damage to ICs is cumulative, and you risk having a fatigued computer that will give out next time there is an anomaly in the power (and probably when you least need it). Alternately, you could move it to a non-critical function.

One other comment - if you do have any critical information on a damaged computer that was not backed up, and the harddrive doesn't function even if you take it out and put it in another computer, there are data recovery services that can probably still get the data. I had a problem with this once and they successfully removed the platters from the old drive, transplanted them into another drive of the same type, and recovered the data. It was surprisingly inexpensive, less than $1,000; this was much
cheaper than trying to recreate the data. There are companies that specialize in this, you can probably find them on the 'net.


Willy Smith
Numatico SA
Costa Rica

Unique Systems

At a former job I was a repair tech for some electronic instrumentation. Around this time of the year I repaired mostly lightning damaged controls. It was my experience that if we did not
replace everything, "mysterious" problems started surfacing a few months down the road. I was told by a semiconductor company that an IC can be weakened by a high energy jolt but not fail
immediately, it will probably run hotter and then fail down the road.

If it was my computer I would demand that they replace everything or else give you 1 year to see if more problems show up.

What kind of lightning protection do you have on your building? You may need to investigate whether or not you have enough lightning protection ... example, adequate bannonets on the roof, bannonets grounded and bonded correctly, a good grounding ring around your building... Do not think that lightning will not strike twice..

good luck

R A Peterson

Another thing to consider is that many surge suppressors and UPS's include warrantys against damage due to power problems.

Bill Gausman

One thing to consider is that with CMOS circuitry, static electricity can PARTIALLY destroy a junction. It will work properly, but be weak. A tiny static discharge later, or even normal operating currents can blow the junction later. Your PC might appear to be operating fine by all measures, but be seriously injured in a microscopic way, destined for delayed failure due to the lightning damage.

I think insurance companies know this, and won't argue with you if you ask for replacement. However, I doubt if they would volunteer.

--Bill Gausman
[email protected]