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DANGEROUS LIGHTNING PROTECTION SYSTEM IN A SCHOOL

A study of LPS in S.L.S. MEMORIAL RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL PAHADPUR, MAYURBHANJ, ODISHA


1.0 About SLS School and LPS installed in the school.

The SLS Memorial residential school is in Mayurbhanj, Odisha. On Thursday, May 4, a “Lightning Protection, Safety and Knowledge System” was inaugurated.

News in media including social media about the installation of LPS in SLS school.


The commissioning of the lightning-safe system makes the school, its building, children, teachers, and surrounding houses in a radius of 107 meters safe from lightning. It will facilitate fearless education, games and extracurricular activities in and around school premises.


Notably, Mayurbhanj is the lightning capital of India both in terms of lightning occurrences and deaths. Several dignitaries, school staff and students attended the event. It was carried out as part of the “North Odisha Tribal Lightning Resilience Programme” led by Maharaja Sri Ram Chandra Deo Bhanj University in collaboration with CROPC, the India Meteorological Department, Ministry of Earth Science, and Fakir Mohan University Balasore.


It is worth noting that CROPC and IMD are running a countrywide “Lightning Resilience India Campaign” to educate people about available solutions to lightning hazards and save precious human and animal lives.


Villagers of Paharpur apprised that lightning has increased phenomenally and there is always a threat to the life of both humans and animals in the village. The villagers have requested that Pahadpur being a highly lightning-prone village, the entire village should be made lightning safe so that they can have fearless life and livelihood.

2.0 Observation at the site:


The Lightning protection is installed in BOYS hostel, which is a two-floor building with a headroom. There is a SOLAR PV installation as well on the second floor. The proponents claimed that this LPS will protect an area of about 107-meter radius from Lightning, as a result, it will protect the Citizens of that area. The distinguished guests who participated in the inauguration, the teachers and students believed that the installed ESE rod protects the school and the neighborhood up to a 107-meter radius.


2.1 One “ESE (Early Streamer Emissions)” air terminal is installed at the highest point of the building, which is at the top of the staircase headroom (say 3rd floor top). Additionally, a non-ESE air terminal is installed in the building, closer to the rooftop SOLAR PV modules on the second-floor top (Fig 3 & Fig 4 respectively). There is NO other air termination arrangement (e.g. a mesh or similar arrangement) on the building.


2.2 From the ESE rod, a GI strip runs vertically downwards through the wall of the staircase headroom, further, it runs horizontally above the floor, (which is plastered) Both ESE & Franklin Rod are interconnected, at the terrace of the building (Fig. 5). The second floor has a stainless-steel handrail. Neither the air terminals nor the down conductors are connected to the handrail. There are two runs of GI strips starting from both the air terminals to the down conductor. They are interconnected at the top (Note: GI strip used is 25 * 6 mm).


2.3 Two strips run (parallel to each other at a distance of around 300 mm) from the air terminals as a Down conductor. Along these two Down conductors, a power line in a conduit also runs, hence all 3 together looks like down conductors (Fig. 6, 7 & 8).


2.4 Two down conductors running parallel are connected to two separate earth electrodes (Fig. 10).


Note: Internal wiring and installation SPDs were not considered in this report.

​Fig 1: Boy’s hostel building where lightning protection was installed.

Fig. 2: ESE rod in boy’s hostel

Fig 3: ESE rod at staircase headroom


​Fig 4: Air terminal – conventional

​Fig 4: Air terminal – conventionalFig 5: Solar PV and Horizontal down conductor from ESE rod is plastered.

​Fig 6: Down conductors (vertical)


​Fig 7: Down Conductors of ESE and conventional air terminals

​Fig 8: Down Conductors and PVC pipe of the electrical installation running parallel.

​Fig 9: earth electrode no 1

Fig 10: Down Conductors terminated to two earth electrodes


3.0 Lightning Protection System


LPS (lightning protection system) consists of Air Termination (also called as interception system), down conductor, earth termination, avoidance of touch and step potentials for human safety, avoidance of flashover between LPS parts and building steel for building safety, Equipotential bonding with all metal parts, SPD, routing of wires etc.


The probability of Lightning hitting a building depends on various factors. However most notably Lightning may not hit the building where the LPS is installed for decades. This gives room for LPS manufacturers to make large claims about its performance. W.r.t Lightning the claims by LPS suppliers have no value, unless the risk assessment of a particular location (based on the incidence of lightning per sq.km per annum) is done. It is a conclusive proof that the counters installed in the down conductor, which counts 10’s of strikes per year in all the ESE type arrangements is to wrongly claim the occurrences to prove that the technology withstood successfully. But, the reality is that such a frequent occurrence would have not actually happened, and it would have been due to a manipulated non-standard device, namely, the lightning counter to show that 10’s of such occurrences existed in a year. The reliability of such devices is doubtful and requires validation with reference to the counters provided at any nearby substation of the Distribution company or HV consumers’ premises.


4.0 Global Research and Development of International Standards for Lightning Safety.

Lightning protection standards have been developed by IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) after detailed research and analysis globally. This research is carried out by 100’s of organisations including universities, manufacturers, testing laboratories and consumer groups across the globe and used for standards development. The standards are accepted and used by all member nations of WTO and signatories of TBT agreements. The standards are frequently updated due to the developments in technology, based on new research.

Globally the international standards of Lightning protection and safety are made by TC 81 of IEC. India is a P-Member in TC81. BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) adopted the IEC standards as a code of practice for lightning protection of structures. The Code of Practice and upcoming standards are as below.

  1. IS/IEC 62035-1: Protection against lightning – Part 1: General principles.

  2. IE/IEC 62305-2: Protection against lightning – Part 2: Risk management.

  3. IE/IEC 62305-3: Protection against lightning – Part 3: Physical damage to structures and life hazard.

  4. IE/IEC 62305-4: Protection against lightning – Part 4: Electrical and electronic systems within structures.

  5. IS/IEC/TR 62713: Safety procedures for reduction of risk outside a structure.

  6. IS/IEC 62793: Thunderstorm warning systems – Protection against lightning.

  7. IS/IEC 62858: Lightning density based on lightning location systems – General principles.

  8. NBC 2016: National Building Code of India 2016.

  9. NEC 2023: National Electrical Code of India 2023.

Note 1: Sl no 5 to 7 is due for publication.

Note 2: NEC and NBC are made mandatory in several states by the state government.


5.0 Engineering Analysis


Based on the above standards the following analysis are made


5.1 Air Termination


ESE rods (often called modern/advanced Lightning Protection) claims that they are more efficient in capturing a lightning and hence it protects an enhanced area. This is not accepted in any IS standards or the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).

Refer The Electricity Act 2003 and the safety regulations thereof


Quote from the CEA regulations “Measures relating to safety and electric supply 2010”.

Regulation 12 (3)


(3) The material and apparatus used shall conform to the relevant specifications of the Bureau of Indian Standards or International Electro-Technical Commission where such specifications have already been laid down.

The LPS installed in the school is in violation of the National Electrical Safety Regulations.

Quote from The Electricity Act 2003


Section 146. (Punishment for non-compliance of orders or directions):


Whoever, fails to comply with any order or direction given under this Act, within such time as may be specified in the said order or direction or contravenes or attempts or abets the contravention of any of the provisions of this Act or any rules or regulations made thereunder, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine, which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both in respect of each offence and in the case of a continuing failure, with an additional fine which may extend to five thousand rupees for every day during which the failure continues after conviction of the first such offence:

Violations of The Electricity Act 2003 or the Regulations made thereunder are punishable as per section 146.

Quote from the standards


IS/IEC 62305 has written, “There are no devices or methods capable of modifying the natural weather phenomena to the extent that they can prevent lightning discharges”.


NBC-2016 has written, “Any other kind of air-terminal like dissipation system / ESE air-terminal / CSE air-terminal shall not be allowed”.

There are 100’s of research papers published around the globe about the false claims of ESE rods. It’s already proven that ESE air termination (advanced/modern lightning protection) is a non-scientific and unproven idea.


The rules of air termination as recommended in the standards are not carried out in SLS school.


5.2 Down conductors.


Down conductors are to carry lightning current from air termination to earth termination. The standards recommend multiple down conductors all around the building to reduce the effect of lightning current flow.


The two down conductors running parallel in the school shows the incompetency and unawareness of Lightning protection engineering in this installation.

Quote from the standards


In order to reduce the probability of damage due to the lightning current flowing in the LPS, the down-conductors shall be arranged in such a way that from the point of strike to earth:

  1. several parallel current paths exist,

  2. the length of the current paths is kept to a minimum,

  3. equipotential bonding to conducting parts of the structure is performed.

The installation of as many down-conductors as possible, at equal spacing around the perimeter interconnected by ring conductors, reduces the probability of dangerous sparking and facilitates the protection of internal installations.


The down-conductors shall be installed so that, as far as practicable, they form a direct continuation of the air-termination conductors. Down-conductors shall be installed straight and vertical such that they provide the shortest and most direct path to earth.

The rules of Down conductors as recommended in the standard is not carried out in SLS school.


5.3 Earth Termination and Earth Electrodes.


The Two separate earth electrodes nearby are also an example of incompetency and unawareness of lightning protection engineering in this installation.

It is a known engineering practice and recorded in almost all standards that “For getting an effective earth electrode resistance, the distance between two earth electrodes shall be at least the length of one rod”.

The rules of Earth Termination as recommended in the standard are not carried out in SLS school.


5.4 Equipotential bonding with the handrail on the rooftop.


The metal handrail at the roof is not bonded to air termination. This can lead to a flashover between air termination and handrail in case of a direct lightning strike. This will damage the building and could ignite a fire if any flammable materials are present in that location. Living beings if present in this location during this time also will be affected due to touch potential.

​Quote from IS/IEC 62305-3


6.2 Lightning equipotential bonding


Equipotentialization is achieved by interconnecting the LPS with

  • metal installations,

  • internal systems,

  • external conductive parts and lines connected to the structure.

The rules of Equipotential Bonding as recommended in the standard is not carried out in SLS school.


5.5 Touch voltage problems.


During a lightning current flow, the down conductors carry an enormous amount of current for a short time and result in a huge potential rise. Accidental touch of the down conductor may lead to electrocution of the living being.

Quote from the standards Clause 8.1 of IS/IEC 62305-3


Protection measures against touch voltages


In certain conditions, the vicinity of the down-conductors of an LPS, may be hazardous to life even if the LPS has been designed and constructed according to the above-mentioned requirements.


The hazard is reduced to a tolerable level if one of the following conditions is fulfilled:

  1. under normal operating conditions there are no persons within 3 m from the down conductors,

  2. a system of at least 10 down-conductors complying with 5.3.5 is employed,

  3. the contact resistance of the surface layer of the soil, within 3 m of the down-conductor, is not less than 100 kΩ.

If none of these conditions is fulfilled, protection measures shall be adopted against injury to living beings due to touch voltages as follows:

  • insulation of the exposed down-conductor is provided giving a 100 kV, 1,2/50 μs impulse withstand voltage, e.g. at least 3 mm cross-linked polyethylene,

  • physical restrictions and/or warning notices to minimize the probability of down-conductors being touched.

The rules of Touch Voltage safety as recommended in the standard is not carried out in SLS school.


5.6 Step voltage.


Living beings in and around the earth termination experiences step voltage during lightning current flow to the earth termination. Often step voltages are the reason for the loss of life of living beings.

Quote from the standards Clause 8.2 of IS/IEC 62305-3


Protection measures against step voltages


In certain conditions, the vicinity of the down-conductors may be hazardous to life even if the LPS has been designed and constructed according to the above-mentioned rules.

The hazard is reduced to a tolerable level if one of the following conditions is fulfilled:

  1. under normal operating conditions there are no persons within 3 m from the down conductors,

  2. a system of at least 10 down-conductors complying with 5.3.5 is employed,

  3. the contact resistance of the surface layer of the soil, within 3 m of the down-conductor, is not less than 100 kΩ.

If none of these conditions is fulfilled, protection measures shall be adopted against injury to living beings due to step voltages as follows:


  • equipotentialization by means of a meshed earth-termination system,

  • physical restrictions and/or warning notices to minimize the probability of access to the dangerous area, within 3 m of the down-conductor.

The rules of Step Voltage safety as recommended in the standard is not carried out in SLS school.

The installation is made based on the claims of the ESE rod supplier and information from the internet, without any knowledge and engineering skills of Lightning Protection. Unfortunately, government agencies and universities are involved in this dangerous lightning protection installation in the school.

The National Institute of Disaster Management made a webinar on “How Lightning Arrester Works” on 26 May 2023. The SLS school installation was shown as an example and the webinar explained the advantages of the ESE air termination system and explained a number of non-scientific and illogical ideas of Lightning Protection. Being a premier institution of the Government of India, consultancy or advisory of the technical authority, namely, the CEA under the Ministry of Power or Bureau of Indian Standards could have been sought before relying on an experimental methodology to protect the school children.

Note: The video of the webinar is available in the YouTube channel of NIDM (LINK).

6.0 Conclusion

6.1 The complete installation of LPS in SLS school violates all safety rules of the Indian Standards, known engineering practices and scientifically proven methods. This is also a violation of The National Electrical Safety Regulations by CEA as mentioned in section 5.1 of this report and is a violation of The Electricity Act 2003, punishable under section 146 of the act.

6.2 It is highly dangerous to be on the rooftop during thunderstorm time. Teachers and Children in the school shall be informed about the danger behind this installation and shall be advised not to use the rooftop during thunder time.

6.3 No living beings shall be present in the area where down conductors and earth electrodes are located. Lightning could create life-threatening effects for living beings in this area.

6.4 All Students and Teachers are advised to be indoors during lightning time. Since the school buildings are RCC, living beings inside these buildings are comparatively safe against the direct effect of lightning. Keep away from the electrical wiring and windows/doors to avoid touch and step potentials and spark overs from electrical wiring and appliance.

The intent of this report is to apprise and safeguard the school children against lightning and it arises in the aftermath of the following events:


Note 6.1

Non-standard Lightning Protection System installed in Amber Fort, Rajasthan resulted in the killing of 11 persons, and injury to eight others during lightning on 12 July 2021.


Note 6.2

ESE system was installed in Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple on 15 November 2011, with a claim of protecting the entire temple complex caused damage to the structure during a lightning hit in December 2013.


Note 6.3

Unscientific and dangerous lightning protection methods proposed and educated in India during Lightning Resilience India Campaign is included in Annex 1. More information about nonstandard LPS and its failures can be found in Annex 2.

 

Annex 1

Unscientific and dangerous lightning protection methods proposed and educated in India.


A campaign called Lightning Resilience India Campaign supported and carried out by various government agencies (IMD/NDMA/CROPC. etc) has proposed/educating the following nonstandard methods of Lightning protection across the country and neighbours. The details of news/videos/articles are provided in the respective links.

  1. Planting tall trees to dissipate lightning and protect people. LINK 1 (refer video 3 in the blog). Bangladesh planted palm trees based on this recommendation and later discarded them LINK 2.

  2. Cycle tire LPS – This method was promoted as an economical way of LPS. The dangers behind this method can be found in LINK 3. BBC reported cycle tire LPS as innovative, as a result, this dangerous method become popular worldwide LINK 4.

  3. ESE rods are being educated as advanced lightning protection which protects a large area. A few years back the campaign claimed ESE rods protect a few kilometres of radius and some cities are completely protected, however, now the claim is a few 100 meters (e.g. 107 meters in case of SLS school) LINK 5 (refer video 1 in the blog).

  4. Now the low-cost LPS is changed from cycle tire LPS to a 10-meter metal pipe connected to earth electrode LINK 6.

The effectiveness of an LPS or the dangers behind a wrong installation could be realised only after a few years or even a decade.

 

Annex 2


List of monuments protected by ESE rods and later damaged, Installed by Archaeological survey of India or by state government agencies.


Note: The links of the news paper report is provided hereunder, which can be opened in browser, or a search in the internet also provide these information.


Madurai


Big temple Tanjore


ODISHA – PURI Jagannath Temple.

GOA


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