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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.

http://lightningsafety.com/nlsi_pls/vehicle_strike.html

Which is reinforced through the following website...

https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/lightning/safety/camping.html#trailers

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.

https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning-victims

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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Lightning

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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Old 06-30-2018, 09:04 PM   #11
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The carbon content in vulcanized rubber tires makes them a conductor, not an insulator. That's why cars are relatively safe in an electrical storm-- they are grounded. Since lightning usually occurs with rain and rainwater is a conductor, I'd think the shell of a wet fiberglass trailer would conduct the lightning to the ground through the tires and anything else between the trailer and the ground. I'm just guessing, though.

I do agree that falling limbs are much more of a hazard. Look overhead before you park your trailer.
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Old 07-01-2018, 09:01 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vermilye View Post
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!
Wow, did you ever climb that guy?
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Old 07-01-2018, 11:17 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by skiman View Post
Wow, did you ever climb that guy?
Haven't needed to over the last couple of years. Currently holds a TV antenna & a FM radio antenna (with a weather station part way up). It is military surplus and solid enough that I can only rock it back & forth an inch or two when at the top. No guys, and anchored by a 4'X4'X6' concrete base.
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Old 07-01-2018, 11:33 AM   #14
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Here, this should take your mind off lightening:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/briti...-b-c-1.4730146
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Old 07-01-2018, 01:29 PM   #15
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Griz conference

Next week conservation service officials are slated to meet with the grizzly bear council to see if they can come to an agreement where the bears quit eating people with the logic that people can no longer eat them. Seems fair.
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Old 07-01-2018, 07:18 PM   #16
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Still, at 3 storm camping deaths per year, you are far more likely to die on the road towing your trailer to the campground.
Very true. Lightning is low on my list of worries. That said, I was huddled in a tent as a kid in a major storm with lightning strikes around us and it was quite scary. We were in a remote area with no vehicles or buildings to retreat to.
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Old 07-01-2018, 07:50 PM   #17
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Okay, on the fiberglassrv.com forum (http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/f...ing-73993.html) you'll find :

"Mark Polk of RVeducation101.com interviews RV electricity expert Mike Sokol about what an RVer should do during an electrical storm. Mike wishes to add this: 'A full aluminum-skinned trailer is the safest in a storm, but a fiberglass-skin trailer offers much less protection. If it has metal framing on 16-inch centers, you're probably still reasonably safe from lightning. However, an RV built with fiberglass over a wood frame or a total ribbed fiberglass frame will offer ZERO protection from a lightning strike.' "

There's also a YouTube video about the subject -- the link is on the forum page. Maybe you didn't want to know the answer ....
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Old 07-01-2018, 08:03 PM   #18
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"...However, an RV built with fiberglass over a wood frame or a total ribbed fiberglass frame will offer ZERO protection from a lightning strike."
I guess you could say the same for a wood-framed house. I still think/hope a wet trailer would conduct the strike around the shell.

In most places I camp there are trees nearby that are a lot taller than my trailer, so my assumption is that they would take the hit. It's not like I'm plowing a 100-acre field and the smokestack on my tractor is the tallest thing for a half-mile around when an electrical storm pops up. That's not a good feeling.
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Old 07-01-2018, 08:10 PM   #19
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Haven't needed to over the last couple of years. Currently holds a TV antenna & a FM radio antenna (with a weather station part way up). It is military surplus and solid enough that I can only rock it back & forth an inch or two when at the top. No guys, and anchored by a 4'X4'X6' concrete base.

Wow, I'm impressed, as would be my ham radio friends. But my cliimbing days are over. Be careful with that tower.
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Old 07-11-2018, 08:00 PM   #20
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I want to reply to several things because that is what I do.

17 meters is the measurement to be concerned with. If there is anything taller than you are within a 17 meter radius sphere of you then it will catch the bolt, not you. Lightening can jump from a taller grounding source to you if you are close enough and are a better conductor. Leaning up against a tree in a lightening storm may be foolish but sitting close by is not a bad idea.

For lightening to strike there has to be a 17,000 volt per inch electric field. The strength of the electrical field increases greatly around sharp points. Sharp is a relative term. Your head is sharp compared to a flat field. A pine tree is very sharp compared to the surrounding ground.

A complete metal wrap around you will absolutely protect you from any electrical discharge by conducting it away from you, until it melts.

Insulation will offer a lot of protection, until it explodes. Fiberglass is insulating. Wood is only a very high resistance. Tires are also a high resistance but not as much as wood.

A vehicle passenger compartment is not a good Faraday's box because of all of the windows. If it was you couldn't use a portable radio inside, which you can. Think cell phone. What a vehicle cab does is conduct the lightening bolt away from you towards ground, which is where it wants to go anyway. A vehicle cab is more of a lightening rod than a Faraday's box.

Struck by lightening is the arch typical example of an unlikely event, even when in a high risk situation.

Rain water is not a conductor. Water is a very good insulator when it is pure like rain water is after the first few minutes of rain. Water needs ions, like salt, to conduct worth a darn. With enough ions in it water can become a pretty good conductor.

Every day 250,000 people are born. Every day 150,000 people die. Every day the population increases by 100,000. If you are concerned about overpopulation then it would be a good thing to go out in the rain carrying a tall metal pole.

If getting struck by lightening while camping in your fiberglass RV is your biggest worry then you have a pretty worry free life.

If you are really concerned about being struck by lightening in your fiberglass RV you should carry a length of cable with you and a couple of ground augers. As part of your setup each time you could sling the cable over your RV and tie it to the augers. Then you would be under a protection that is well within your 17 meter sphere.

If lightening strikes and comes out from behind the TV then it probably hit the antenna, came down the cable and arced to ground somewhere in the back.

A house with copper plumbing is pretty well protected from lightening by the 17 meter principle. Plastic, not so much. If you have no other method to protect yourself from lightening, like a nearby power pole, then a lightening rod might make sense.

A #2 copper wire cannot carry the typical current flow of a lightening strike but what it can do is get an ionization path started away from important things so that they are not harmed.

People who get their science from the movies, like "Powder" will be mislead.



One lightening rod on a house provides more than enough protection.

Hardly anybody is actually struck directly by lightening. Typically what happens is that it strikes near by. There is so much current in the bolt that it draws from the surrounding area. People are in the surrounding area and get a bit of the current flowing through them. It doesn't take much current to really mess you up.
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