A fabric structure serves many purposes: secure storage for cargo and/or equipment, covered work areas, temporary warehouse, hangars or lunch tents. In each case, what lies within the structure is seeking shelter from the elements: sun, rain, wind and lightning. Not only do consumers seek security of their property from theft or protection from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, but also protection from dangerous lightning. However, often, the importance of lightning protection is overlooked despite the fact that it is a very serious thing to consider. It is critical that any outdoor structure, whether temporary or permanent, have lighting protection.
Lightning is a natural occurrence that cannot be avoided, occurs in every geographic region, thus must be protected against. It is destructive and potentially deadly. A lightning strike can discharge varying amounts of electricity from a few thousand amps to hundreds of thousands. Although it only lasts for microseconds, the potential for damage created by lightning strikes is very real and lasting.
The most obvious destruction of lightning, such as structural damage or injury, quickly comes to mind. There are secondary effects of lightning that need to be considered as well and protective measures taken in the construction of a fabric structure. These are the electrical surges that occur as a result of a lightning strike upon a structure's electrical system. Even a low amp lightning strike can create a spike of high voltage that can wreak havoc with a building’s entire electrical system.
When developing a lightning protection strategy that is truly effective, the solution must include structural protection as well as the transient protection of electrical systems. This provides complete protection for the structure, electronics and the people within the structure. High voltage overloads can cause injury to a person just as a direct lightning strike can cause injury. The benefits of having lightning protection for fabric buildings are:
- Saving business investment
- Safeguarding the safety of personnel working within the fabric structure
So don’t overlook the importance of having a comprehensive lightning protection plan that includes electrical system protection along with structural protection.
(This Mahaffey lunch tent uses a wide variety of electronics)
Electronics and technology are used in virtually every aspect of all industries and in most temporary structures. Even, if the proposed use of a fabric shelter does not include wide use of electronic technologies, it is likely the fabric structure will have a lighting system and, perhaps, a HVAC unit. That is why every fabric structure should feature lightning protection. Common business related electronic technologies that are at risk of destructive damage from a lightning strike are:
- Electronics and software
- Communication networks
- Security systems
- Fire alarms
- Fire suppression systems
To avoid the possibility of damage from lightning that could cripple business capabilities, provide a fabric structure with effective lightning protection. By implementing a lightning protection plan in the construction of a fabric structure, many lightning related problems can be avoided. Lightning strikes are responsible for directly causing fires, explosions, dangerous chemical releases and critical mechanical disruptions. These can occur from a direct lightning strike or from the secondary complication of a high voltage discharge from a lightning strike. Humans or animals in areas where these events occur are also at risk of injury or even death.
A two-part lightning protection plan, protecting the structure and protecting the internal electrical system, begins with the protection of the fabric structure from external lightning strikes. A fabric structure lightning protection system intercepts the burst of energy from the lightning strike and conducts it toward the ground where it is safely dispersed within the earth. With the energy diverted, the structure, and all that is within it, including the electrical system, remain safe.