Contents of Aerosol Cans can be Flammable!

During a recent vehicle fire investigation, it was discovered that the owner had been carrying at least eight aerosol cans of different products during the hottest month of the year so far.  The fire resulted in the destruction of a Toyota Highlander that was only months old.  This is a perfect example that illustrates the fact that people will forget that the contents are flammable and that the potential for explosion and fire is very real.  In this particular case, some of the contents of these cans were identified as Raid Multi 7 Insect Spray, Bayer Advanced Home Insect Spray and Aqua Net Hair Spray.  The cans that were recovered are shown in the photograph below.  It was also determined that at least one of the cans exploded prior to the fire.  It is imperative to remember that when products in aerosol cans are purchased, they should be stored in a cool and dry place, not left in a hot vehicle.  Not all aerosol cans contain flammable ingredients but, if you are not going to read the label, then treat them as flammable and store them accordingly.

 

 

 

 

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So You Want to be Connected….

In today’s world, one of the main buzzwords is “smart”.  This word usually refers to a device that has the intelligence to identify your next request and act to provide the information almost instantaneously.  In order to do so, the device has to be connected to the internet.  Right now, “smart” devices are limited mainly to cell phones and computers.  I just watched a webinar that talked about the “home ecosystem” needed to form a “smart home”.  However, almost nothing was said about security.  Imagine connecting your kitchen appliances to the internet.  From any remote location, you could start a load of laundry, do a load of dishes, or cook dinner and have it ready by the time you get home.  Similarly, you could adjust the temperature of your thermostat so that your home will be cooled or heated when your family gets home.  It all sounds great. But, there is a downside.  No matter how far technology advances and no matter how secure networks become, hackers (as they are known today) will ALWAYS be around to try and break the system.  As long as people are connected, hackers will try to steal information.  With that information, imagine someone taking control of your home, whether it’s listening in, watching you, or controlling your devices.  It’s up to you to decide whether you want such devices in your home.  If you don’t mind somebody spying on you, that’s fine.  Remember, those ads that pop up on your phone or computer just when you happen to be thinking of buying the same item, didn’t just pop up by coincidence.  They popped up because someone has captured information about something that interests you.

How Can I Help?

A lot of material has been posted on this website in the time that it has been in existence.  Some of that material has elicited comments and questions.  I would like to reiterate that I’m here for just that purpose.  I know that some of you that read this blog have questions about how to handle an incident that has affected you or someone you know.  Many of you have never been through a property claims process and don’t know what to expect.  Times are changing and it’s not like the old days when an adjuster came to your home or business.  Although some companies have not completely automated yet, many have incorporated electronic adjusting.  That is, you send your carrier pictures or other proof of your loss and they will determine how to settle the claim.  In other cases, drones are used to survey vehicular or structural damage.  Some things haven’t changed, like fires, water losses, and automobile accidents.  Property damage and personal injury are still going to occur.  And some of those things are going to be caused by defective products.  That’s where I come in.  If you have any questions about claims, defective products, investigations or engineering in general, please let know.  You can contact me via the comment section on this website or email me directly at rjhill@rjhill.com.

 

Fiat Chrysler Recalls 4.8 Million Vehicles

Fiat Chrysler has recalled approximately 4,800,000 vehicles because of a problem with the cruise control.  If the control short circuits, the driver might not be able to deactivate the control in order to reduce speed.  Use of the malfunctioning cruise control increases the driver’s risk of a crash.   The following vehicles are involved in this recall: 2014-2018 Chrysler 300 sedans, Dodge Charger sedans, Journey and Durango SUVs, Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks, Ram 3500 trucks (greater than 10,000 pounds), 4500 and 5500 cab-chassis trucks, Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SUVs; 2014-2019 Ram 1500 trucks, 2015-2018 Dodge Challenger sedans, 2015-2017 Chrysler 200 sedans, 2016-2018 Ram 3500 (less than 10,000 pounds) cab-chassis trucks, 2017-2018 Chrysler Pacifica minivans, and 2018 Jeep Wrangler SUVs.  The recall applies to those vehicles with automatic transmissions and gasoline engines.  Fiat Chrysler is advising drivers to stop using the cruise control.  If the driver cannot disengage the cruise control once engaged, the driver should press firmly on the brake pedal and shift the transmission lever from drive to neutral.  Let the vehicle coast to a stop while steering safely to the side of the road and then placing the shift lever in park once the vehicle has come to a complete stop.  Owner notification will begin on or about July 6, 2018.  Owners should then take their vehicles to their local dealer for a free repair.  For additional information, owners can contact Fiat Chrysler by calling 1-800-853-1403.

It’s Not Always the Contractor’s Fault.

Although the time has come when warmer weather is upon us, the effects of this past winter are still being felt.  Recently, we were involved in an investigation that focused on the cause of damage to a water cooling coil located inside of a cooling tower (see photo below).  This might seem strange to some but, it is possible to require the cooling of a building during the winter.  In the investigation we were performing, the system was comprised of a water cooled water chiller.  This might not mean anything to most people but to those familiar with chiller operation, water was the fluid used to both cool the air and remove the heat absorbed by the refrigerant.  On the condenser side, water was circulated through a shell and tube heat exchanger and then pumped to another coil type heat exchanger located inside the cooling tower.  The problem arose when the local air temperature began to drop below freezing.  As the water temperature dropped below 40 F, water flow between the condenser and water coil was stopped (as part of the automatic control sequence).  As the air temperature continued to drop, the water temperature also dropped until the water froze inside the coil and caused it to burst in several places.  Since this was new construction, it was the engineer’s position that the mechanical contractor had erred and was negligent in their responsibility to protect the equipment.  However, it was later determined that the building had been turned over to the building owner under the substantial completion part of the contract.  As a result, the building owner was responsible for the protection of the building as well as the building’s mechanical systems.  Regardless of the positions taken by the various parties, the design of the HVAC system including the incorporation of freeze protection, was the responsibility of the mechanical engineer.  This responsibility is not an arbitrary assignment.  It has been long recognized by engineers and specifically, those engineers that are involved in HVAC design.  Although freeze protection had been designed into other parts of the system, no provision for freeze protection was made for the cooling coil located inside the cooling tower.  When all was said and done, the engineer failed to incorporate an adequate way to protect the coil and blamed the contractor in order to avoid the appearance of failure on their part.

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Ford Recalls Trucks and SUVs

The Ford Motor Company has recalled approximately 350,000 vehicles due to a problem with the transmission.  The vehicles involved are: 2018 Ford F 150 built in Dearborn between January 5, 2017 and February 6, 2018; 2018 Ford F 150 built in Kansas City between January 25, 2017 and February 16, 2018; 2018 Ford Expedition built in Kentucky between April 3, 2017 and January 30, 2018; and 2018 Ford F650 and 750 trucks built in Ohio between April 25, 2017 and March 9, 2018.  All of these vehicles contain an automatic transmission gear shift cable locking clip that was not properly seated.  As a result, the transmission might NOT be in “Park” after the driver has shifted into “Park” and could possibly roll away after the driver has left the vehicle.  Dealers will inspect vehicles free of charge and make adjustments accordingly.  For additional information, consumers can contact Ford by calling 1-800-392-3673.

Death by Driverless Car

A number of news outlets are already reporting the first pedestrian death that occurred when an autonomous vehicle struck and killed a woman in Tempe Arizona.  According to the news reports, the vehicle was operated by Uber with a human driver for safety.  The woman was crossing a street, at a point other than a crosswalk, with her bicycle.  It should be pointed out that, jaywalking is not recommended nor is it legal in most municipalities.   The vehicle, a Volvo XC90, failed to detect her presence, struck and killed her.  First and foremost, this is a prime example of the fact that we as a society are a long way from having autonomous vehicles take us where we want to go.  Second, there was a human being in the vehicle when the accident occurred, supposedly for safety purposes.  So, why didn’t he take the wheel and try to avoid hitting the woman?  Did the event present itself so suddenly that there wasn’t time for him to react?  Or was he so surprised by the woman’s appearance that he was stunned and couldn’t move?  It is possible that the woman walked into traffic in front of the Volvo with no thought about what she doing.  In that case, she was most likely at fault.  However, we are constantly being told that autonomous vehicles will be much safer and that the accident rate will go down when these vehicles are in common use.  But, what about when the car’s computer has to make an ethical decision?  What does the vehicle do when it has to decide whether to kill a pedestrian or crash into another vehicle and risk killing some or all of its occupants?  Speaking from a forensic standpoint, remember, the movements of the vehicle will be preprogrammed at the manufacturer’s factory based on various scenarios that drivers face everyday.  Are you ready to forfeit your life on the basis of what some programmer thinks is the right thing to do?

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