If there is any lightning whatsoever, unplug your modem / router immediately!
Turning it off is not good enough. A nearby lightning strike can send a power surge through various materials, eg. electrical wiring, copper phone lines, coax cable, plumbing pipes.These things actually attract the lightning, leaving your modem/router at risk when this happens.
Your modem/router and computer are very sensitive, even brown outs and blackouts (in other words, power outages or electrical power surges) can zap them and other sensitive equipment when the power kicks in again.
How to tell if my modem/router has been zapped? It’s not always obvious as all it takes is for one tiny component inside to be fried. This is what to look out for:
- The internet connection will have dropped
- The modem/router lights are flashing even after a power cycle
- You can’t login to the modem/router to check configuration
- You can smell a burnt plastic odour originating from your equipment
- In some cases you may see the power outlet, plug, or the modem/router cables or main housing scorched
But what if you're on NBN, does all this apply? Yes!
If you are on NBN Fibre to the Premises, then theoretically optical fibre does not conduct lightning strike power surges. But, the power source can! Your NBN box/NTD, or the utility box outside, or your router may have been zapped. If you are on NBN Fibre to the Node/Building, then from the node to your premises uses the copper line to which you have connected a modem/router.
Contact your ISP to check and troubleshoot your connection if your internet has dropped out or is slow after a storm.
Will a Surge Protection Device (SPD) protect against a power surge? Possibly but it is certainly a good idea to invest in some. Note, there are cheap SPDs and more expensive ones. Generally the more expensive ones are designed to protect more sensitive equipment such as your modem and computer from lightning and other surges so investing more would be the better decision. SPDs definitely are a good investment. Unfortunately, no surge protector is completely effective as some portion of the surge can sneak through, and a large surge could exceed the SPD’s capacity.
If a storm is coming and you are at home, physically disconnect your modem, computer, printer, TV, and don’t forget to unplug your mobile phone that may be on charge from the mains socket to protect them all from a power surge.
If you really need to get online during the storm you can grab your laptop (not on charge of course), grab your mobile (also not plugged in) and connect via hotspot from your phone until the storm passes. All wireless!
Also a good time for a reminder to not forget to keep your computer backups up-to-date just in case it gets zapped!