Grenfell Tower Fire

By now most everyone has heard about the Grenfell Tower Fire that has consumed a 24 story building and claimed the lives of 79 people. Although the cause and origin of the fire has yet to be determined, there are some interesting things that have been reported by The Telegraph, the local newspaper.  First, it has been reported that cyanide gas might have contributed to the deaths of some of the victims.  The exterior cladding of the building was made from a plastic foam, called Polyisocyanurate (PIR), sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum foil.  PIR is flammable and when ignited, produces toxic gases including hydrogen cyanide.  The Telegraph also reported that 12 of the Grenfell patients treated at a local hospital were treated with Cyanokit, a hydrogen cyanide antidote.  Second, the building was inspected 16 times over the past two years for various renovation projects.  The question of whether the building inspectors were competent has been raised.  In addition, some are wondering if the inspectors recognized what they were looking at when they made their inspections.  Third, the building was not designed with a fire sprinkler system or means of fire escape for residents.  As a result, local authorities have recognized the need for change in the way buildings are designed and inspected.  Prime Minister Theresa May has stated that are at least 600 buildings in the country have similar cladding to the Grenfell building.  However, local officials have said that the figure refers instead to buildings with all types of cladding material.

 

As a side note, the type of building codes used in London and specifically in the North Kensington area are unknown. However, as a result of this fire, it is clear that government authority derived from codified regulations is severely lacking in enforcement.

This is What Can Happen When the Sprinkler System Doesn’t Work…

The previous post on fire protection systems training talked about systems and the importance of maintaining that equipment.  The following describes one instance and the consequences if the sprinkler system isn’t operational.

On December 1, 2008 a warehouse building, located in Dyersburg Tennessee and owned by the Bekaert Corporation, was destroyed by fire. The building complex is shown in the photo below.

 

The wing on the left was the side that was completely destroyed. At the time of the fire, the warehouse had been leased to Briggs and Stratton for storage of their lawn mower products.  It was later determined that Briggs and Stratton lost approximately $25,000,000.00 in inventory.  When the lease was signed, one of the clauses stated that Briggs accepted the building in an “As Is, Where Is” condition.  It also required Briggs to make any repairs required by codes to bring the building into compliance.  Codes, in turn, required that Briggs obtain a certificate of occupancy prior to moving into the building – neither of which were done.  (Our involvement in this investigation was as a codes consultant.)  Briggs moved in to the building, brought in their products and stacked them to the point where the use of the building would have been classified “High Piled Storage”.  For over one year, the building contained products that were put at risk by the manufacturer, Briggs and Stratton.  When the investigation into the fire had been completed, there were some differing opinions as to the cause of the fire.  However, most of the discussion was centered on a metal halide lamp and a bulb that possibly exploded.  Because most of Briggs’ products were stacked above 12 feet, the explosion of a metal halide bulb could easily have ignited combustible material, ie, pallets wrapped with plastic. With no sprinkler system in operation, there was no way to stop the fire in its initial stages.  As a result, the building and all its contents were destroyed.

Fire Protection Systems Training

Just completed a fire protection systems training program presented by Century Fire Protection. The presentation included discussion of such topics as wet and dry sprinkler systems; including pre-action, deluge and fire pump applications.  In addition to systems, the presentation included discussion of components for each system.  We also talked about the various valve types used such as post indication valves (PIV), wall post indication valves, outside stem and yoke (OSY), and check valves.  Furthermore, pumps and piping configurations were also reviewed.  Moreover, the various types of fire alarm system configurations such as voice evacuation, initiating devices and monitoring stations were also discussed.  Since fires are classified according to the material being burned, no presentation would be complete without a review of the types of fire extinguishers for classes A, B, C, D, and K type fires.  Lastly, owners responsibilities were also reviewed.  This last part was of particular interest since subrogation sometimes depends on establishing whether the owner is in any way at fault.

Nissan to Begin Implementing Automatic Braking

 

Nissan North America has announced that it will begin adding automatic braking to its vehicles beginning with some 2018 models. The feature will use sensors, cameras or radar to detect objects and either stop or slow the vehicle down to reduce the impact of a collision.  Those vehicles that will have automatic braking will include Rogue, Rogue Sport, Maxima, Altima, Murano, Leaf, and Pathfinder vehicles.  Nissan has also pledged to equip 90% of its vehicles with the feature by 2020 and all of its vehicles by 2022. The move to incorporate automatic braking is in response to an agreement with the government signed by Nissan as well as Toyota, General Motors and others to incorporate the technology and hopefully reduce rear end collisions.

Are You Ready to Deal With Robots?

 

Attention adjusters and underwriters! The time is coming when claims will be handled by a robot.  If that isn’t scary enough, maybe it’s time to start worrying about your jobs.  According to a June 6, 2017 article in the Claims Journal entitled “Move Over Adjusters and Underwriters, the Bots are Coming”, robots are handling small claims in order to free up claims people for the more complex claims.  As far as jobs are concerned, the industry experts say there is no need to worry.  However secure jobs might be now, there is always that possibility that robots will do well enough to be implemented on a larger scale requiring a reduction in the human workforce.  We all know that reducing expenses means an increase in profit and that’s a pretty good incentive for corporate management to begin reducing the workforce.  The article also discusses using robots to handle auto claims.  Specifically, the “bot” would access information from vehicles equipped with electronic control units and download accident information as soon as an accident occurs.  Such a set up already threatens those that do accident reconstruction work.  With the implementation of smart building systems in homes and commercial buildings, any detection of a fault in a major system would be “sensed” and recorded.  So, where’s the incentive to hire a fire investigation company if the fire has already been determined to have been accidental?  All these scenarios might be speculative at this point but, with the speed at which technology changes and the rate at which it is being implemented, these scenarios might be coming sooner that anyone thinks.  Food for thought?

 

 

Recalls From Volkswagen and Hyundai

Volkswagen Group of America has recalled approximately 240,487 vehicles as a result of a fuel pump problem. More specifically, the recall applies to 2013-2017 Audi Q5 and Q7.  These vehicles are equipped with a fuel pump that has a flange which can crack.  The crack in turn, can allow fuel to leak and fuel in the presence of an ignition source can result in a fire.  Audi will advise owners (usually by regular mail) and dealers will replace cracked fuel pumps free of charge.  If fuel pumps are found to be crack free, then a protective film will be applied in order to prevent cracking, also free of charge.  The recall is expected to begin on July 2, 2017.  For further information, owners can contact Volkswagen by calling 1-800253-2834.  The recall number for this campaign is 20Z8

Hyundai Motor Company has announced that it is recalling approximately 600,000 vehicles in two recalls. The first recall involves 2013-2017 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport, about 437,400 vehicles. Corrosion can attack the secondary hood latch and cause it to malfunction.  More specifically, the actuating cable can bind causing the hood to open while the vehicle is in motion.  The recall will begin June 30 with Hyundai notifying owners and dealers replacing the hood latch free of charge.  The second recall applies to 16,074 Hyundai Genesis and Sonata Vehicles manufactured between 2015 and 2016.  Corrosion is also to blame for attacking the parking brake switch.  As a result, the parking brake light may not illuminate if the driver does not realize that the parking brake is applied.  This recall will also begin on June 30 with the notification of vehicle owners.  Again, dealers will repair the affected vehicles free of charge.  For further information on either of these recalls, owners can contact Hyundai by calling 1-888-327-4236.

Stop Using LayZ Board Hoverboards!

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a warning to consumers to stop using the LayZ Board hoverboard because of a dangerous fire safety hazard. The warning was issued in a press release dated May 1, 2017.  The hoverboard is equipped with a lithium ion battery which has a tendency to overheat when charging.  If the battery overheats, it can also lead to a fire.  The CPSC has found evidence indicating that the hoverboard was involved in a house fire that took the lives of two young girls on March 10 of this year.  According to the press release, 3000 hoverboards were imported from Shenzhen China.  However, no model or serial number information was provided with the press release.  The LayZ Board is two wheeled, battery powered, and self balancing unit equipped with a balancing platform for the rider’s feet.  The hoverboard does NOT have a handlebar.  The name “LayZ Board” also appears on the front of the unit.  A photograph of the unit appears below.  It should be noted that there is a similar product on the market entitled “Lazyboard” hoverboards.  This product is an entirely different product and has nothing to do with this notice.  For additional information, consumers can contact the CPSC by calling 1-800-638-2772 or visiting the CPSC website at www.cpsc.gov.

LayZBoard Hoverboard

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