Seesam’s advice on how to avoid thunderstorm damage[Dagmar Gilden | 26.08]
The mercury topping 30 degrees might be a cause of cheer for holidaymakers, but a hot summer day can bring with it rumbling thunder and bolts of lightning. Seesam Insurance Product Manager Dagmar Gilden has some advice on how to prevent damage to person and property in thunderstorms.
According to Gilden, such damage broadly falls into two categories. Damage caused by lightning striking a building or structure is less frequent, but still occurs every year. These situations are usually more serious and can cause fires. There have been cases where an entire building has been destroyed in a fire due to a power surge caused by a thunderstorm.
Significantly more frequent are cases that occur as a result of the indirect effects of thunderstorms, such as power fluctuations and power cuts caused by lightning. In this case, household appliances, electronics and other equipment serving a building (such as heat pumps) may be damaged.
In addition to appliances, thunderstorms also pose a major threat to cars and objects standing near large, old trees. “Thunderstorms are often accompanied by strong winds, which can bring trees down and throw loose objects around,” says Gilden. “That means that besides rescuing electronics, it’s also worth checking where your car is parked and that there’s no loose garden furniture outside.” She illustrates this with the case of an ash tree that was split down the middle during a thunderstorm and fell onto the roof of a home, shattering a bedroom skylight and crushing the sheet metal roofing. The facade of the house was also damaged. Torrential rain pouring in from the broken skylight damaged the room’s interior fittings and caused water damage to household electronics. “It’s an example of one thing leading to another and ultimately causing extensive property damage,” says Gilden.
In 2021, Seesam Insurance recorded 50 cases of damage directly related to thunderstorms, compared to 30 that have occurred in the first seven months of 2022. However, there are many more cases of indirect damage caused by lightning. Seesam’s highest payout for thunderstorm damage last year was €6000; this year it has topped out at €4000 so far. “However, the August heatwave and the associated risk of thunderstorms could still change things,” Gilden cautions.
Seesam’s representative has some tips on how to prevent damage and protect both people and property in thunderstorms.
• Unplug electrical equipment. As lightning is the main culprit in power cuts, which in turn damage plugged-in household appliances, you should disconnect electrical appliances and cables when heading out to work on a hot summer’s day or travelling to the countryside for the weekend.
• Don’t leave loose objects outside. Thunderstorms can bring strong gusts of wind, so it is especially important to close windows and safely store loose garden furniture and trampolines. You should also make sure that antennas and other extrinsic parts of your house are securely attached. If they start flying, then in addition to the objects themselves being damaged, they will also damage everything in their path, such as nearby parked cars and the doors and windows of houses.
• Insure your household property. Check the terms and conditions of your home insurance and make sure that you’re covered against possible thunderstorm damage. In fact, for many home insurance policy holders, household property insurance is not included in the contract and policy holders often only check the terms and conditions of the contract when something has actually been damaged.
• Prune or cut down older trees and branches in good time. Check any trees growing close to your house every year, pruning or even removing them entirely if necessary. Strong winds during a thunderstorm can send branches flying, breaking windows, scratching the paintwork on cars and damaging the roofs of buildings.
• Avoid sheltering under trees and swimming during thunderstorms. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity and trees are more likely to be struck by lightning.