Supervisors, Sheriff’s Department devising method to protect jail equipment from lightning strikes

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Sheriff’s Department is looking for solutions to protect the Pearl River County’s Lenoir Rowell Correctional Facility in Millard from lightning strikes.

The facility has been hit by lightning once this year said Sheriff David Allison, and was hit at least once last year.

“It’s a big old metal building that attracts lightning,” Allison said.

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Lightning strikes to the building have been a problem for years, he said. The last lightning strike damaged dispatch radios, servers, and computers, which needed to be replaced he said. The damage cost the department $3,000 to $4,000, Allison said.

Previously, the county purchased surge protectors to prevent damage to electronic equipment, he said. Coast Electric Power Association also studied the building to help prevent damage, he said. While these steps have reduced the amount of damage from lightning strikes, he said, communication equipment is still being damaged.

The department is investigating the cost of protecting the building from future lightning damage, he said.

The Sheriff’s Department acquired two quotes to equip the correctional facility with lightning rods on the exterior and install surge protectors inside the building’s electrical panel, Allison said.  Cost estimates for lightning rods are $41,000 and $44,000, he said, which is within the department’s budget. Surge protectors in the panel would cost the county an additional $14,000, he said.

During Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Allison turned over the quotes to county engineer Les Dungan. Dungan will evaluate the quotes and the building’s needs to determine if the improvements will solve the lightning strike problem, Allison said.  When Dungan determines if the quotes are adequate or if the building needs more protection, that information will be brought back to the Board, who will decide what action will be taken, Allison said.