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Summer Heat and Storms Can Cause Electrical Surges -- Will You Be Ready When the Power Goes Out?; Hartford Steam Boiler Offers Guidelines To Help Reduce The Risk Of Equipment Damage.

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Storms and a heavy demand for air conditioning in summer lead to millions of dollars in equipment losses each year as high-voltage power surges strike electrical systems in homes, businesses and institutions. Poorly maintained or mismatched electrical equipment adds to the problem of electrical breakdowns.

It's important to take steps now to protect equipment from damage and prepare for the loss of electric power, advise the equipment specialists at The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (HSB). The company is offering guidelines to help consumers and businesses reduce the risk of equipment losses.

"A power surge can come from many sources," said William Bartley, P.E., a Principal Electrical Engineer for HSB, who works with clients and insurers to help protect and restore electrical equipment. "The most obvious is lightning, but these high-energy pulses can also come from normal utility switching operations, or when a power line falls to the ground during a windstorm. Surges can come from the outside and inside a building, even from air conditioners, motors and pumps, and other equipment."

Surges may result from blackouts as utilities strain to keep up with demand in the peak summer months. In these cases, the damage occurs not when electricity suddenly cuts out, but when it resumes, sending a sudden surge through the lines. Electrical damage also can be caused by voltage sags or longer lasting brownouts which reduce power levels and cause equipment to work harder. These conditions are collectively known as electrical transients and disrupt the quality of power flow necessary for the normal operation of equipment.

How to Protect Property and Equipment

Although there is no way to guarantee that home or business equipment will not be damaged by power surges, properly sized and grounded surge suppression systems are the best defense against power spikes from any source. The following guidelines can help protect against equipment breakdowns and related property damage.

--Pull the Plug. Whether it's during or after a storm or power outage, the best way to avoid surge damage is to unplug equipment and turn switches off. Once the threat passes or power is restored, plug the equipment back in one piece at a time, starting with units closest to the power source to limit potential damage.

--Install Surge Protection. These devices should be placed inside and outside a building. Utility power lines are not the only path for voltage surges to enter. Telephone lines, computer lines, modems, faxes -- any equipment connected to the outside world can be a source. It is critical that a building have a good, low-resistance grounding system. Consult a licensed electrician.

--Protect Critical Equipment. Computers are not the only equipment risk. Don't forget surge protection devices for each piece of important equipment and all sensitive systems, including communications lines and networks. Households should also protect televisions, home entertainment systems, security systems and similar property.

--Emergency Generators. If you don't have emergency generators, consider a rental agreement with a dependable local vendor.

--Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). If computer loads or communications systems utilize the UPS to continue operating through short-term outages, have procedures for an orderly shutdown. Usually, the UPS will provide power for 15 to 60 minutes so you can save and protect data.

--Power Outage Procedures. Keep written procedures on what to do in a power emergency in a central location. Include emergency contacts, such as electrical and repair contractors.

(Editor's Note: Fact sheet about power surges is attached.)

The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company is a global specialty insurer and reinsurer. One of the world's leading equipment breakdown insurers, Hartford Steam Boiler helps clients reduce risk through a unique combination of specialty coverages, engineering-based risk management strategies and loss reduction services. For more information about Hartford Steam Boiler including more detailed information about maintaining and protecting electrical equipment visit its Web site at www.hsb.com.
Ten Facts About Lightning and Other Power Surges

 1. What Is A Power Surge? An electrical transient, or power surge,
 is a short duration, high energy impulse that is sent through
 a normal electrical power system whenever there is a sudden
 change in the electrical circuit.

 2. Where Do They Come From? Lightning is the most obvious source,
 but power surges also originate from normal utility switching
 operations, or the unintentional grounding of electrical
 conductors such as when a power line falls to the ground. A
 simple example of circuit switching is when you turn a light
 switch on.

 3. Inside Job. Power surges can also come from inside a building
 from air conditioners, elevators, motors and pumps, arc
 welders and other equipment. Whatever the cause, the normal
 electrical circuit is suddenly exposed to a large dose of
 energy.

 4. How Can A Blackout Cause A Power Surge? It is not the loss of
 power that causes a power surge and equipment loss. The damage
 occurs when electricity resumes, sending a sudden surge of
 power through the lines.

 5. What Can You Do To Protect Equipment? There is no way to
 guarantee that equipment will not be damaged by lightning or
 circuit switching power surges. But properly sized and
 grounded surge suppression systems are the best defense.

 6. The Lowdown On Lightning. People often discuss lightning and
 voltage surges as two distinct phenomena, when lightning is
 just one type of surge. Another form of environmental surge is
 common electrostatic discharge, which can be particularly
 damaging to sensitive electronic equipment. In fact, lightning
 has been described as "a big spark" or static electricity on a
 giant scale.

 7. What Causes Lightning? In the simplest terms, lightning is an
 electrical discharge between positive and negative regions of
 a thunderstorm. Although cloud-to-ground strikes are the most
 damaging and dangerous, lightning can also discharge within
 clouds and from cloud to cloud.

 8. Nature's Light Show. There are about 15-20 million
 cloud-to-ground strikes per year in the U.S. and millions more
 aloft. The heat from an average lightning bolt exceeds 50,000
 degrees F -- three times hotter than the surface of the Sun.

 9. Double Trouble. Lightning does strike twice. It hits the Empire
 State Building an average 15-20 times each year.

 10. Flash, Crackle, Boom! Lightning travels at 90,000 miles per
 second. Thunder is the delayed shock wave created by
 superheated air in the lightning channel. By counting the
 seconds between the flash and the thunder and dividing by
 five, you can estimate the distance to the strike in miles.

Sources: The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company
(HSB)/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its
organizations/National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA)/National Lightning Safety Institute
COPYRIGHT 2006 Business Wire
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jun 8, 2006
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