Copper Blocks Damage to Denver Fire Station’s Communication System
Upgraded Lightning Protection System Addresses Potentially Serious, Costly Outages
NEW YORK, NY— Imagine if first responders stopped responding. Frantic phone calls would go unanswered, and emergency vehicles would never leave the station. For the Cunningham Fire Protection District’s (CFPD) Fire Station No. 1 in Denver, Colorado, this tragic imagery became reality as summer thunderstorms repeatedly extinguished their communication and response systems.
On average, Denver experiences 50 large thunderstorms per year. Fire Station No. 1 is located on level terrain. Its antenna towers and other building extensions created the perfect breeding surface for powerful lighting strikes that often left the station with damaged communication systems.
“For us as an emergency response organization it’s critical that we respond every time, so we had to stop the damage,” said David Markham, CFPD’s Division Chief of Operations who is responsible for making certain that the district’s equipment and personnel arrive where they’re needed, when they’re needed. “Regardless of what problems we’re having in our building, the public is relying on us to respond.”
After approximately 14 years of spending between $8,000 and $10,000 each year in costly lightning damage repairs, dealing with potentially fatal outages to the station’s radio and communication system, and possibly letting down the community he pledged to protect, Markham discovered a solution – a copper-based lightning protection system.
“We only wanted copper because of its reliability and durability for exposure to the elements,” said Markham. “With aluminum, it needs to be checked after every storm because there’s a potential for things to come loose and have to be retightened.”
Markham hired Mr. Lighting, a 50-plus-year-old lighting and protection contractor in Colorado Springs, to design and install the system, consisting of a new halo ground, and runs of 32-strand, 17-gage AWG braided copper lightning cable. From the roof, four braided copper down-conductors were run along the exterior walls of the building; terminating in 10-ft driven copper grounding electrodes; establishing the four points of grounding (earthing) required by NFPA specifications.
A new 200-ft triangular grounding electrode was created out of copper and installed to connect the neighboring TV transmission tower to the fire station’s grounding and lighting protection system. The copper cable and electrode installation allowed for the absorption and diversion of high voltage strikes into the earth, rather than the fire station’s electrical systems.
The 100-percent copper, lightning protection system designed and installed at Fire Station No. 1 has worked flawlessly for more than a decade.
“There is no question that the use of copper saved Fire Station No. 1 financially, but most likely it also saved lives,” said David Brender, the National Program Manager, Electrical Applications for the Copper Development Association (CDA). “Time has proven again and again that a simple switch to a properly installed electrical grounding and lightning protection system can protect organizations from building fires, property damage and even loss of life.”
Learn more about copper in grounding systems or the electrical upgrades installed at Fire station No.1.
June 30, 2015
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