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Old 06-30-2018, 03:02 PM   #1
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are Escape trailers safe during lightning storms?

We all know that if you're indoors during a lightning storm then you're safe? And trailers are safe because, like autos, they have rubber tires to insulate from lightning strikes?
Turns out that's wrong. The reason autos are safe during storms is not because of the tires insulating the vehicle. It's due to the Faraday cage effect.

Which is reinforced through the following website...

The alarming reality is that fiberglass trailers are not safe from direct lightning strikes because, not having a metal framwork, the Faraday Cage effect doesn't apply to them. Soooo.... I tried to research actual lightning strikes on RV's, and came up empty handed. I then researched lightning fatalities. There's a very good site out of the USA national weather service which lists all lightning fatalities by activity for the past 10 years. Each year there are about 3 people killed while 'camping' in the states.

Looking at any fatalities under 'camping', one is able to then research local news for each fatality (names were provided in the list). Not one person killed while camping was in a trailer, they were all outside.

My question. Does anyone have any more concrete information on how safe fiberglass trailers are during a lightning storm? While they might not be safe from a direct lightning strike, if there are no recorded RV strikes, then it's really a moot point! Just wanting to feel more comfortable the next time we're sitting in the trailer watching a great storm approaching!

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Old 06-30-2018, 03:07 PM   #2
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Likely scenario is lightening strikes nearby tree. It explodes and falls on the trailer, crushing the occupants.

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Old 06-30-2018, 03:53 PM   #3
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When we were forest fire lookouts living in a 55 foot lookout, the lookout was lightning rod and cable grounded. Lightning did hit the tower on occasion. When it got stormy we sat on the bed or on wooden stools with glass insulators screwed on the four legs and the bed had them too. We disconnected the radio antenna. We had a small propane stove and the air was charged enough to have blue sparks traveling around the burners at times. Later as a professional arborist I dealt with municipal trees. The biggest damage risk in the Midwest is a limb that breaks off because of unnoticed rot or defect. Second is wind throw where a bad root system allows the tree to tip over in high wind. The biggest piece of wood and bark I ever picked up and hauled off from a lightning strike was about 150 lbs. Camping in a tent
In a campground full of big old teees that are known to be weak wooded kills the most campers in the Midwest. Always assess the situation before setting up camp. Cottonwoods, silver maples etc get big with tons of wood in the air. I do not worry about lightning especially if not camped on an exposed point. There’s no dishonor in getting in your car and driving to a safer site. Why take a chance.
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Old 06-30-2018, 04:17 PM   #4
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The reality is a house is no where near a Faraday cage. I remember as a 5 year old sitting in the living room of the house with my mom telling us we were safe from the storm. Couple of seconds later a big boom, and a ball of lightning popped up from behind the TV, floated around the living room for about 5 seconds, then disappeared with another bang. She sure had that "Never Mind" look on her face!

I suspect you are no safer in a fiberglass trailer than standing at the same height outside, Better during a storm to head for the tow vehicle, or, if in a campground (at least most state parks, particularly in the south), the bathrooms.

Still, at 3 storm camping deaths per year, you are far more likely to die on the road towing your trailer to the campground.
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Old 06-30-2018, 04:22 PM   #5
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Pulled into Ft. Churchill outside Silver Springs, NV. Parked in campsite then left before we paid as there are lots of old woody & neglected trees there.

At Veterans Memorial Park in Monterey, CA they have a sign up warning campers of topple- prone trees.

At Stanley Lake, ID one of the best loops is closed due to the high water table making the lodge pines prone to blowing over. They had to pay out $4M to a camper made a quadriplegic recently.

In San Mateo county, CA a boy who was 12 when a tree toppled and required amputation of his right leg & pelvis due to a rotted tree falling on his tent while sleeping was awarded $47M yesterday.
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Old 06-30-2018, 04:51 PM   #6
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I'd also be alert around wind.
Man crushed to death under wind-blown camper in North Dakota
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Old 06-30-2018, 05:04 PM   #7
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How many people have 2 or 3 story homes with a metal chimney sticking well above the roof
In most parts of the USA no lighting protection is required where as from what I have read Canada does require such protection
I worked on a home where the metal chimney was hit by lightning causing the propane furnace to explode and start the home on fire .
I’ve also seen many homes that have large pole mounted TV antennas with no lighting protection or are not grounded . The metal shield on a coax cable will not withstand a lightning strike.
I ran a #2 solid copper from my antenna to 2 - 12 ft ground rods . Luckily so far my system hasn’t been tested
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Old 06-30-2018, 05:35 PM   #8
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Hi Folks and thanks for so many replies so quickly! And everyone's correct about the dangers of 'things' falling on trailers causing deaths - that's well documented, as is the fact that wooden structures don't protect from lightning hits. But I'm really wanting to know: does anyone have any verifiable information on actual lightning strikes on RV's of any kind, fiberglass, wood, or metal? Sure, we know that we all might be hit by a meteor, but no one worries about it because it's virtually unknown. Think of the storm which hit Osoyoos during the last rally and all the trailers in the open with nothing around them. Well. Are there any verified cases of folk being killed while in their RV's during a lightning storm following a direct hit?
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Old 06-30-2018, 05:59 PM   #9
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It doesn't look like there's a whole lot of cases of folks in f.g. trailers being hit by direct lightening strikes. But for sailors it's a different story. Lots have hit and the effects range from fried electronics to a hole being blown in the hull.

Of course having a tall metal mast on the boat kind of negates the insulating effects of the f.g. hull. Our standard practice when in open water and with lightening strikes within a few miles was to toss over a length of chain attached to the back stay to provide a direct path to ground hoping to avoid it following the bonding wire to a thru hull and blowing a hole in the hull.

Also another difference between the car and the trailer is that the car only has 4 rubber wheels in contact with the ground. The trailer has a tongue jack and stabilizers in contact with the earth. Don't know if that means that the strike would just go through the fame to ground.

But I don't think that I'll loose any sleep over the issue.

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Old 06-30-2018, 08:31 PM   #10
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I used to have lightning strikes hit the trees around my house, but after adding a 56' high tower (so I could watch our UHF PBS channel before cable) I've never had a nearby lightning hit. The tower provides a cone of protection around the house &nearby trees. Better than a lightning rod!
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