NFPA 780: Setting the Standard for Safe and Effective Lightning Protection Systems.

Blog Post created by kiml on Jul 21, 2017

Lightning was responsible for another tragic fire that claimed three lives at a senior living center in Chesapeake, VA this week. News reports referenced fire alarms, sprinkler systems and NFPA 13, but unfortunately failed to mention how lightning protection systems, like those outlined in NFPA 780, can help prevent these tragic events.

NFPA codes and standards are designed to ensure the safety of products, activities or processes. When it comes to lightning protection systems (LPS), the difference between “safe and effective” and “unsafe and ineffective” lightning protection is ultimately related to which guidelines are implemented.


Over the years, the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) has shared a wealth of information about the importance of compliance with the national safety standards for LPS. Despite the wealth of information shared, confusion and misunderstanding about lightning protection specification, design, installation and quality assurance persists. Oftentimes, LPS is omitted from construction project plans altogether--typically due to lack of knowledge about these systems and their benefits. Since a review of the fundamentals of any code or standard can be helpful, here are four “W’s” to better acquaint you with NFPA 780, the Safety Standard that sets the quality standard for lightning protection design and installation.



Often considered the grandfather of lightning protection, NFPA 780 provides valuable resource information for AHJs, project designers, engineers, insurance professionals and anyone responsible for the protection of lives and property from dangers associated with lightning. NFPA also serves as the basis for the LPI-175 Standard of Practice for the Design-Installation-Inspection of Lightning Protection Systems reference document, which is commonly used by LPI-certified designers and installers and LPI-IP inspectors. NFPA 780 covers lightning protection system installation requirements for structures, watercraft, wind turbines, industrial stacks and other special occupancies. Lightning protection guidance for new construction and building trends (including solar systems, arrays, catenary systems, airfield lighting, rooftop equipment) are also addressed, with new information and sections added to the Standard in conjunction with the three-year review process.  Information added to the 2017 edition of NFPA 780 to address new safety challenges includes:

* Occupancy-specific safety, design and protection protocol

* Updated information for hazardous, combustible and explosive conditions

* Revisions to address protection for structures containing flammable vapors, gases or liquids

* Revisions to assist facility managers, installers, inspectors and AHJ’s with on-site inspections and periodic maintenance

* New definitions for commonly misunderstood lightning protection terms

* Updated illustrations for the placement of lightning protection components

* New bonding requirements for metal bodies

* New Annex sections (there are now 15 in total in the 2017 edition) added to address new building technologies, such as: protection of smart structures and SPD guidance for the selection of SPD’s for photovoltaic installations



NFPA 780 is the principle lightning protection Standard in the U.S. and a primary implementing document for the IEC 62305 (International Electrotechnical Commission) series of documents. NFPA 780 also provides the foundation for numerous specialized lightning protection documents for organizations such as the DOD, DOE, NASA and the FAA. Prior to the development of the IEC series, NFPA 780 was routinely referenced and used worldwide.



The NFPA first adopted “Specifications for Protection of Buildings Against Lightning” in 1905. Revised editions of the early code (and subsequent standard) continued to be adopted by NFPA throughout the century. In 1992 the numerical designation of the document was changed from “78 “to “780” and the name “Lightning Protection Code” was revised to “Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems” to conform with the NFPA’s routine method of naming documents. Since NFPA 780 contains installation requirements, it is more appropriately termed an installation “standard” rather than a “code.”



The 2017 Edition of NFPA 780, prepared by Technical Committee on Lightning Protection was issued by the Standards Council and approved as an American National Standard on June 2, 2016. The new document can be viewed free online at:


Curious about the How?  

Contact a LPI-certified specialist through the LPI membership directory to learn how a NFPA 780-compliant lightning protection system can help protect your home or business.