Lightning also causes problems with telecommunications equipment and facilities. The box, often referred to as a NID (Network Interface Device) on the side of your house or perhaps in your basement, is there to prevent lightning from damaging the wiring. The lightning protectors in the box are designed to route electrical surges in excess of 300 volts to ground, thereby protecting the wiring.
However, surges of less than 300 volts are more than sufficient to damage or destroy any electronic devices such as phones, fax machines, or modems that are connected to a phone jack. A surge protector is highly recommended as a way of prevent surges in electrical current from reaching your equipment, whether that surge comes over the phone or power lines (we have shopping tips in this blog). The best ones have a warranty guarantee that will pay for damage to any equipment plugged into the surge protector. Unplugging computers and other electronic devices is the best way to prevent damage to those pieces of equipment.
Of course, no type of protection can stop the power of a direct or nearly direct hit from lightning. I’ve seen cable blown out of the ground, pedestals (those light green boxes by the side of the road) set on fire, and a lot of equipment burned up or melted by lightning strikes during my years in the telephone business.
If you hear there is a possibility of thunderstorms in the area, a good practice is to at least turn off any electronics to avoid damage from power surges during the storm. Unplugging the devices from the electrical power and the phone line, if applicable, is the best way to avoid damage from lightning. Once the storm has passed, plug the equipment back in, turn it on, and make sure it works as it did before the storm.
Of course, we want you to be safe during storms as well. When a thunderstorm is near, remember to avoid:
- High ground
- Open Spaces (e.g. golf courses, sports fields, parks, school yards, playgrounds)
- Solitary trees
During a thunderstorm, it is a good idea to avoid touching or being near the following items:
- Hard-wired telephones
- Electrical appliances or wiring
- Metal objects including electric wires, fences, machinery, motors, aluminum ladders, and power tools
- Metal windows or door frames
If you’re caught in a storm, try to find a safe location, such as a substantial building or a fully enclosed metal vehicle such as a car, truck or a van with the windows completely shut. If there isn’t any shelter nearby, assume of the Lightning Safety Position:
- Crouch to the lowest possible position with feet together, head bowed, and place hands on ears to reduce acoustic shock from nearby thunder
- Remove any metal objects you may be wearing (including baseball caps which often have metal clasps or accents)
- Avoid being too close to other people (stay a minimum of 15 ft. apart)
The goal is to not become a part of the pathway conducting lightning. This means avoiding all electrical circuits, switches, powered equipment, metal doors and windows, hand rails, and so on. If you feel your hair standing on end, and/or hear “crackling noises,” you are in lightning’s electric field.
If there are any problems with your TDS phone or internet services after a storm, please call us at 1-888-CALL-TDS, to report the problem, 24 hours a day, every day.