Lessons in Lightning Awareness from a Soccer Dad

By    June 24, 2015

The showers have finished, the clouds cleared and the prematurely darkened skies have lightened up. Perhaps we will get this soccer game in after all, and that 45-minute mad dash from the office to see the last game of the season would not be for naught! Sure enough, the boys made it on the field. They were up 1-0 and were pressing fast for another opportunity when the sirens went off. Natural instinct took over and two actions took place almost simultaneously. The referee immediately blew his whistle, halting the drive, and instructed the boys to proceed immediately their parents’ cars. I, and all of the other parents, looked to the sky and asked ourselves, “Why are the sirens going off when the sky is clear?”Blog-Imhoff-lightning.jpg

The referee absolutely took the right action and cleared the field. As there was no shelter at the field, he required the teams and fans to enter their vehicles. I didn’t time it but in less than three or four minutes, everybody was safe where they needed to be. Fortunately, there were no lightning strikes that Wednesday evening. 

However, to answer the question above, the sirens went off because lightning can travel up to 25 miles from its source. The detectors had recognized the conditions were optimal – safety comes first.  A few additional facts for the numbers oriented readers as Mother Nature is not to be trifled with!


  • Over 100 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur every second, and

  • On average, 55 people annually are killed by lightning in the United States alone.

Unlike all of the other parents on the sidelines, I happened to make an additional observation when I was sky gazing and hunting for the offending lightning cloud. Several of the light stanchions surrounding the field had video surveillance cameras mounted on them and connected to radios for backhaul. I suspect that I am the only parent that would not only notice but also be pleased to see the use of our technology! As the radios were mounted too high to tell, I wondered if the installer had correctly used surge suppression devices with the installation.

While I live in the Midwest of the United States, which is prone to electric storms, lightning occurs around the world. This past Monday we hosted customers from a large Indian oil company, who attested to the frequency of lightning in their geography and the criticality of surge suppression. Use of surge suppression protects the equipment and preserves the cost of installation typically for pennies on the dollar. Whether it is a relatively expensive licensed microwave node or a relatively inexpensive CPE device, I would hope that network operators are protecting their equipment with a modest investment in surge suppression elements and ensuring the installation is properly grounded. On the CPE side, what network operator wants to explain to a home owner that a surge originating in their equipment transited into the home and wrecked the sensitive electronics plugged in the mains because it wasn’t interrupted with a low cost surge suppressor? 

All Cambium Networks products are designed with electrical surge in mind and have recommendations on best practices for grounding equipment and achieving protection against lightning-induced electrical surges. We design and manufacture our own lightning protection units specifically for use in any installation environment, whether mounted at the top of a mast or on the side of a home.  If your standard operating procedure is to not install surge suppression, take a few minutes and calculate the return on investment, and then consider the risk/reward trade-off. If your standard operating procedure calls for the use of surge suppression, when was the last time you audited your crews’ work for proper installation and grounding? 

Roughly 20 minutes after the first siren, the “all clear” signal sounded and play resumed. With a 3-0 victory in hand, the boys ended the spring season on a high-note, dad got credit for making the game, and everybody went home safe!