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.

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.

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

Steam Condensation Plant Explosion

 

According to an article published in the May 26, 2017 edition of the Insurance Journal, the Associated Press reported that a steam condensation tank exploded in a St. Louis box manufacturing plant.  The explosion reportedly occurred on April 3.  Upon concluding its investigation, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Board found that engineers at the Loy-Lange Box Company knew that the tank was in need of repairs as early as November of 2012.  However, the repairs were never made and the tank was never inspected by city officials.  As a result, it is clear that the system that was meant to keep pressurized tanks operating safely, failed.  Because of the tank failure, the box plant and another business, Faultless Healthcare Linen, were damaged.  More tragically and more importantly, four people were killed.  It should be noted that the city of St. Louis is actually exempt from Missouri law requiring regular inspections of pressurized vessels by state or insurance company inspectors.  Instead of having inspectors, the city requires that licensed engineers be posted in attendance of the pressurized tanks, in effect delegating its role to company personnel.  It is clear that the system failed because the company and the city of St. Louis did not communicate.  That is, the tank exploded because Loy-Lange failed make the necessary repairs before the tank became a time bomb.  The company failed to make the repairs because there was no government authority to enforce code requirements for inspection or shut the steam plant down.  The city did not do its job because Loy-Lange failed to report its inspections to the city and as a result, the city could not produce inspection reports when requested by the Board.  The engineers in attendance and, therefore the company, might or might not have been required to report to the city but, in any case, provided a way for Loy-Lange to escape scrutiny with disastrous consequences.

Using Drones for Claims Investigations

 

The insurance claims industry has been publishing articles claiming to increase the use of drones for investigating property claims. Travelers Insurance Company was recently highlighted in an article in Insurance Journal magazine titled “Travelers’ Drone Program is Changing the Way its Claims Reps Do Business”, dated May 11, 2017.  In the article, Travelers is teaching claims adjusters to use drones to inspect property instead of physically going to the property and doing the inspection.  Where roofs are concerned, there is an obvious safety benefit.  However, the move is to eliminate sending an adjuster altogether thereby eliminating the expense of travel and on-site adjusting time not to mention is reduction in claim handling time.  What about auto claims and water damage claims and fire claims?  If a drone can be used to assess the damage without sending an adjuster to the scene, then the cost savings to the carrier will be very beneficial.  However, whatever cannot be seen by an adjuster now will not be seen by a drone either.  Hidden damage in roofs, vehicles or structures will present the same problem that it does today.  That is, what is not viewable and is not accounted for will have to examined and dealt with when the damage is discovered.  This further implies that roofers will be submitting estimates for additional work.  Similarly, auto mechanics and body shops will be submitting estimates for additional work when hidden damage is brought to light in their respective jobs.  Building contractors will be doing the same thing when they discover problems in structures that will have to be addressed before the building is ready to be reoccupied.  As tempting as drone technology is to insurance carriers; there are restrictions regarding flight over certain areas.  The FAA prohibits flight over certain populated areas and as a matter of safety, they are restricted within a certain distance from airports.  There are also concerns of privacy and whether or not a carrier might be spying on a customer.  Furthermore, can the photographic data be used to intentionally deny coverage to a customer as well as support a claim? Reports of carriers intentionally denying or shorting customers on their settlements is not unheard of and will continue.  Drone technology will facilitate this process.  After all is said and done, drone technology still has a ways to go before it is fully accepted as a common way of doing business.

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