There is one safety precaution that is a common-sense practice in the chimney/venting world. In the words of industry professional Tedd Cuttitta Jr. of Nanuet, New York: “We have always had a policy here. The first clap of thunder, get off the roof.”
That’s due, of course, to lightning.
Chimney and dryer exhaust maintenance is both an indoor and outdoor occupation, but no industry professionals we know will risk a tingle while on the shingle. That includes Cuttitta, a Chimney Safety Institute of America Certified Chimney Sweep and Dryer Exhaust Technician with Hi-Tor Chimney Sweeps And Relining Systems Inc.
Lightning is a concern with sweeps from California to Colorado — all regions of the country, in fact.
“We stay off the roofs and scaffolding if there’s thunder heard,” said CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep and CSIA C-DET Technician Ken Hoelscher of Abbey Road Chimney Sweeps in Brookville, Ohio. “Because if you can hear it, it’s close enough to get you.”
We bring this up after some disturbing news from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (CSIA is a NOAA-approved Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador.) NOAA reports that 17 people this year have died from lightning strikes in the United States. NOAA says that ALL of these deaths were avoidable. This is double the average number of year-to-date lightning fatalities (8.8) over the past five years (2010-2014).
NOAA says there are several possible reasons for this, such as: more convective activity across the country; an improved economy resulting in more people taking vacations this summer; the possibility of people taking more risks than usual; and the element of chance. But the most important issue is behavior: People must go indoors when they hear thunder!
That’s what CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps do. (Keeping an eye on weather concerns, such as rain, is covered in our Successful Chimney Sweeping manual, one of the requirements of CSIA certification.) Our sweeps keep an eye on the clouds. (Rain and repair don’t always mix well with chimneys as it is.) They know, and YOU should know, there is no safe place outside, particularly with metal ladders and scaffolding!
MORE: Lightning myths debunked, courtesy of NOAA
“Bad weather can change something that’s normally accessible for inspection to inaccessible,” says CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep & C-DET Technician Lou Curley of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. “I document that in the report. And, there’s no way I’d be on a roof for a big job in a storm, I’d reschedule.”
A smartphone with a weather app is almost a must for those in the business, adds CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep Stephen Scally of Fireside Sweeps in Fremont, New Hampshire. “Thunder and lighting are a no go. Better be inside, or bad things happen.”