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 ~ National Lightning Safety Institute ~

Section 1.4

NLSI International Lightning Safety Initiative

Lightning safety for people and for facilities is a global issue. There are many countries where lightning and lightning consequences are two or three times more frequent than in the USA. According to Holle (Royal Aeronautical Society, 2003), there are some 24,000 lightning deaths and 240,000 injuries annually worldwide.

In agricultural, manufacturing, and natural resources industries, especially those that export products and are a source of foreign currency, reliable electrical energy is an essential asset. Lightning interruptions cannot be tolerated without significant costs. Lightning safety for people in lesser-developed nations is also an important issue. Reports of recent deaths have been noted in such countries as Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Bhutan. Villagers, farmers, workers on tea plantations, and rural school children in these countries have in common the same lack of understanding of the lightning threat as do hikers, golfers, and sports enthusiasts in our country. Everywhere the solution is the same: education about the common “do’s” and “do not’s” with respect to such practices as listening for thunder, seeing lightning strikes, avoiding isolated trees, avoiding water, avoiding proximity to metal objects, seeking the low ground, seeking shelter in shrubs and bushes, etc. Teaching lightning safety is a fundamental task everywhere. General public knowledge on lightning protection should be sufficient so that human and livestock deaths, injuries, and property damage are reduced significantly. For facility protection, it is important that strict scientific guidelines, such as those published under IEC 62305, be followed to the exclusion of DAS/CTS/ESE and other non-compliant vendor-promoted products.

For several years the National Lightning Safety Institute (NLSI) has exported its methodologies and practices overseas. Some groups already up-and-running include:

  • Sri Lanka. Professor Chandima Gomes, Physics Department, University of Colombo. Through lectures, public speaking, and media cooperation Dr. Gomes is carrying the lightning safety message throughout his nation. He consults to public and private organizations to help them solve issues relating to lightning and power quality.
  • Bangladesh. Dr. Munir Ahmed, Executive Director of Technological Assistance for Rural Advancement (TARA). He is organizing meetings about lightning safety in local villages and small communities. Dr. Ahmed visited our USA headquarters in late 2005.
  • Bhutan. Dr. Parashuram Sharma, Head of Electrical Engineering Department, Royal Bhutan Institute of Technology (RBIT). He is conducting meetings and distributing posters with the basic “do’s” and “do not’s” safety messages.
  • Kenya. Prof. Robert Jallan’go Akello, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Nairobi, Nairobi Kenya. Active in this work for many years, he is Chairman of the National Lightning Protection Committee in Kenya. In addition, Dr. Akello is Director of the Pan-African Lightning Protection Agency (PALPA) serving East Africa. NLSI visited Dr. Akello in 2006.
  • Malaysia. SATRIC and CELP, South Asian Technology Research & Information Centre and Centre for Excellence in Lightning Protection, www.satric.org, Dr. Mohd Zainal Abidin Ab Kadir, Dept. of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). In January 2010 Dr. Chandima Gomes relocated from Sri Lanka to assume a professorship at UPM, Kuala Lumpur. This should benefit CELP activities throughout Southeast Asia.
  • Nepal. Dr. SriRam Sharma, Academic Director of REHDON College, Kathmandu, and member of Nepal Physical Society, is very active in lightning safety awareness throughout that nation.

With leadership from Prof. Gomes, recently a South Asian Lightning Awareness Program (SALAP) has been developed to build much-needed awareness and expertise in the region. Funding has been made available from the South Asian Regional Initiative for Energy Cooperation and Development (SARI) and UNESCO’s New Delhi office. There is much progress to report in South Asia. Lightning research centers (LRCs) and lightning awareness centers (LACs) have been established in several countries. The LRC in Bangladesh is at Jahangirnagar University under the leadership of Prof. Mannan Chowdhury, while LAC Bangladesh was established at TARA under the leadership of Dr. Munir Ahmed. The LAC and LRC in Bhutan is sponsored by RBIT, with Prof. P. Sharma assuming direction.

In Kenya, Prof. Akello has promulgated the basic concepts of lightning behavior, awareness of lightning threats, and achieving low-cost, effective lightning safety defenses so as to mitigate the hazard. Organizations such as Kenya Met., Kenya Power and Lighting, cellular telephone providers, Sony Sugar Co., and Unilever Company all have their in-house awareness lightning safety campaigns in place.

Future needs for lightning safety initiatives are urgent in China, India, and West Africa. Can you assist?


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National Lightning Safety Institute
Providing expert training and consulting for lightning problems