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Protecting against summer storms


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 7, 1999

Your sensitive electronic equipment and Florida's summer thunderstorms are not meant for each other. So protecting the equipment can be a challenge.

Surge protectors help prevent surges and spikes in household electrical current from damaging equipment. However, a surge protector is no match against a direct lightning strike. Experts advocate a "whole-house" protection system, which starts outside at the meter or circuit box and continues with devices throughout the house.

You also need to protect devices connected to phone and cable TV lines. Many surge protectors come with jacks for those lines. An uninterruptible power supply, or UPS, can help in several ways. If you lose power, it keeps your computer running long enough for you to save your work and properly shut down. It also works as a surge protector.

Experts disagree on how to choose a surge protector. Some rely on ratings from Underwriters Laboratories; some don't. Some say price is no guarantee of performance. And some say look at the warranty's fine print and its coverage if equipment is damaged or destroyed.

Here are some safety tips for when thunderstorms are in the area:

* Don't use the telephone.

* Take off headsets.

* Turn off and stay away from computers, TVs and appliances. (If you hear thunder, lightning is in the area; unplugging devices could be dangerous.)

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