NFPA Long Form Decision on Standard 780 Lightning Protection Standard

The subject proceedings resulted from an attack by the Heary Brothers and other proponents of ESE (Early Streamer Emission) lightning rods, who claimed, among other things, that it was unfair to continue to maintain a standard on Franklin rod systems after refusing to approve a standard for ESE systems (draft 781).

On October 4, 2001, the Standards Council of NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) dismissed the appeal of the Hearys, decided to continue its standard on lightning protection (No. 780), and released the year 2000 edition.  The Short Form of that decision was posted on this web site by Mr. Richard Kithil on October 11, 2001.  (Message #813 in our archives).

On January 7, 2002, NFPA released its "Long Form" Decision on the matter, giving the reasons thereof.  The subject document is 11-pages long. Excerpts are given hereafter, and instructions regarding accessing the full document are given at the end of this note. 

1. The real issue in this appeal is not really the validity of traditional lightning protection technology, but rather the claimed validity of ESE technology.

2. The position taken by the Hearys in effect constitutes admission that Franklin rod systems were valid.  This is further evidenced by:  a) a Heary representative consistently participated in NFPA 780 committee and always voted in favor of NFPA Standard 780,  b) in addition to ESE rods, the Hearys produce and install NFPA 780 compliant systems, and, c) the rejected ESE draft standard itself relies to a great extent on the same general principles used in NFPA 780, namely: i) except for the claimed large effective height of an ESE rod, similar methods are used to determine its attractive zone,  ii) an ESE system similarly consists of air terminals, down conductors and ground rods.

3. NFPA treatment of traditional and ESE technologies are not disparate.  This is because ESE folks are not claiming their technology to be equivalent to Franklin rod systems.  Rather, they are claiming that ESE rods are vastly more effective to the point of permitting the number of air terminals, and the related down conductors and ground rods, to be drastically reduced.  

4. Both the review by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and the report of the Bryan Panel concluded that the claims of vastly superior performance of ESE rods has not been validated.

5. The principal task of the Bryan Panel was the evaluation of ESE technology, not conventional lightning protection systems.   Their statement regarding the latter was in error because a large body of the related literature was not included in their review.

6. The NFPA Council considered the report of the "Federal Interagency User Group Report" (pp. 23-95 of the proceedings) to constitute adequate proof that a scientific basis exists for traditional lightning protection systems.  Council also received many other documents of which it specifically relied on the following:  a) a report by the Committee on Atmospheric and Space Electricity (CASE) of the American Geophysical Union (pp. 96-115 of the proceedings), and,  b) a report by Professor Charles B. Moore and Graydon D. Aulich of the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research of New Mexico Tech (pp. 128-140 of the proceedings). 

7. Of the many other submissions made, the writer found the following to include useful/original information: a) an inspection of the termination points of lightning strokes to two older buildings in Atlanta, Georgia, by Robley B. Melton, Jr. of BellSouth Communications (pp. 18-21 of the proceedings), and,  b) a brief literature review by Dr. Hugh Christian, Jr., of NASA (pp. 121-127 of the proceedings).

8. Council noted that the above reports were of high quality, their authors were experts, and their objectivity is established by: a) their interest in the effectiveness of lightning protection systems, and,  b) the absence of conflict of interest.

9. A. parallel study of lightning in Russia and their development of similar standards have become available recently to further increase the already substantial weight of evidence behind traditional lightning protection systems.

10. The above proofs are in addition to the fact that Standard NFPA 780 always received overwhelming support through the standards development process.

11. The Heary Brothers attempted to attack the report of the Federal Interagency User Group by raising two more absurd arguments: a) that members of NFPA 780 Committee should have been barred from participating in preparing documents, and,  b) that the formation of the Federal User Group should have complied with the Federal Advisory Committee Act!  Council rejected both arguments, and the latter best reveals how far the Hearys went in distorting the matter from being a science issue to legal gimmicks.

12. The Federal Interagency User Group included Mr. John M. Tobias, Mr. Charles L. Wakefield, Mr. Larry W. Strother, Dr. Vladislav Mazur, Dr. Josephine Covino, Mr. John R. Fredlund, Dr. Hugh J. Christian, Dr. Monte Bateman, Mr. Warren K. Jordan, and Mr. Greg Heles. 

13. CASE members who prepared and/or endorsed its report were 24 scientists, some of whom are already mentioned above.  The others included Professor Martin Uman, Professor E.P. Krider, Professor Vladimir A. Rakov, Professor William Rison, Professor Paul R. Krehbiel, Professor William P. Winn, Professor Edgar A. Bering, Professor Marx Brook, Professor Tom Marshall, Professor Ronald J. Thomas, Associate Professor Vince Idone, Assistant Professor Ken Eack, Assistant Professor Maribeth Stolzenburg, Dr. Vladislav Mazur (NOAA), Dr. W. David Rust (NOAA), Don Latham (US Forest Service), Ron Holle (Global Atmospherics), Dan Holden (Los Alamos National Laboratory), Steven Hunyady (New Mexico Tech) and Leon Byerly (Lightning Protection Technology).

To get the full text of the NFPA decision: log onto www.nfpa.org
* then search the site for "NFPA 780".
* then click on "standardscouncil.asp"
* then click on "pending appeals and appeal decisions".
* then click on "October 2001 Decisions"
* then click on "Long Decision"

Abdul Mousa, Ph.D., P. Eng., Fellow IEEE
Co-moderator, abdul.mousa@bchydro.bc.ca  

Mike Holt's Comment: Become a member of the lightning protection group, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LightningProtection

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