Cape Canaveral installing new technology to camouflage city buildings from lightning

No one can change the fact Florida is the lightning capital of the world, but one city is trying to send it somewhere else. 

Cape Canaveral has dealt with severe damage from lightning over the years that's damaged critical infrastructure. Now, they’re arming city buildings with new technology to keep people and property safe.

One insurance claim after a strike was $76,000 when lightning hit the water reclamation facility. City Hall was also hit during a different storm. Cars parked at city hall were also fried. 

That’s when the city said they’d had enough and installed a new lightning suppression system on the roof of city hall. 

"It is a threat we face every day," said Zachary Eichholz who spearheaded bringing the technology to the city and is the chief resilience manager.

For him, the threat was personal when his own personal vehicle was fried from lightning in the city hall parking lot.

"It shut down a lot of systems, and we had to go into emergency operations," Eichholz added.

The same strike took out the generator and stopped operations at City Hall. That's when he knew they had to find a new way to keep critical infrastructure safe during storms. 

"We need to make sure that our continuity is up and running at all times, and being able to find new technologies to help with that is one of our top priorities," he said. 

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They’re achieving that goal with cutting-edge technology from EMP Solutions. On the roof of city hall is a 30-foot pole equipped with technology that works like camouflage, hiding the building from lightning.

"It develops a dome around the entire building and prevents lighting from striking all the way out to the parking lot of city hall," said Jay Kothari who’s the president of the company EMP Solutions. 

His company designed the lightning prevention system that’s currently installed at four critical city buildings in Cape Canaveral.

"A lot of buildings can handle a lightning strike, but when there’s public safety involved, you don’t want to have to mix lighting with people," the president added. 

What they’ve made is the opposite of a lightning rod. It sends lightning away by constantly balancing the electrical field from the sky and on earth so lightning can't form in the first place. 

Across Florida, EMP tools are also being used on cruise ships, lifeguard stands and athletic facilities. So far, Cape Canaveral is the only city in Brevard County with the tools. 

 The next building the city wants to arm with the technology is the fire department. So far, installing them at four buildings has cost the city around $68,000, and city officials now have peace of mind when a storm rolls through.