Atmospheric discharges: is there any reason to fear them?

Because of its location, Colombia has a high lightning activity. In the past, lightning has caused multiple damages and even human losses. Today there are a number of effective mechanisms to control this. But how do you know if your business needs a protrction system against these natural phenomena?

Published on 3 December 2019

Atmospheric discharges: is there any reason to fear them?

The experts say it and the figures confirm it; In a country like Colombia where millions of atmospheric discharges fall annually - being in fact the seventh country in the world with the most lightning -, having a shielding system is a safety priority.

The first thing you should know is that any structure is always susceptible to receiving an atmospheric discharge. However, it is tall buildings and those that end in a point that mostly attract lightning. And if you ever wondered if the type of industry or activity carried out can increase the probability of being struck by ligthing, the answer is: Not necessarily!

To have or not to have a shielding system?

The risk of receiving an atmospheric discharge is the same for all businesses. However, the consequences do vary and can escalate to catastrophic levels, since the impact is not the same if lightning strikes a golf course, than if it hits a hydrocarbon refinery where there is a high concentration of combustible gases.

Now, talking about a business with characteristics such yours, the consequences of not having a conductor system that directs energy to a grounding system is that after receiving an atmospheric discharge, the energy advances through electrical systems: In the best case, this energy crosses the entire network causing damage to transformers and equipment cables. In the worst case scenario, there safety of your workers could be put at risk, and even human losses.

What does the law say?

According to the Technical Regulations of Electrical Installations or RETIE, of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, there are 4 levels of protection categorized according to the number of people exposed, and also to the level of social and economic exposure. To better ilustrate this, here are some examples:

Level 4 corresponds to structures such as universities, colleges, residential complexes, farms and warehouses.

Level 3 applies to buildings such as hotels, shopping centers, clinics and industrial plants with costly processes.

Level 2 is implemented in hospitals (medical assistance centers of levels 3 and 4), stadiums and theaters.

Level 1 includes facilities with high risk of explosion or damage such as hydrocarbons or generation plants.

The best way to protect your company is with a robust preventive plan

It is said that the magnitude of discharges in the country is greater than 30,000 amps. Even so, there is no reason to fear these natural phenomena, as long as they are managed through a preventive plan.

Keep in mind that an atmospheric discharge can translate into economic, time and supply losses - because operations are halted randomly -, irreparable damage to or deteriorating the operation of machinery and equipment, and most importantly, human losses. Protect your business and the people who work there from atmospheric discharges together with an Enel X expert team.

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