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.

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.

Recalls for Fire and Electrical Defects

The following information describes products that have been recalled for serious defects that can result in fire or electrical shock. All of the information reported here has been reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

 

Goodman Air Handlers

 

Goodman Manufacturing has recalled approximately 210,000 air handlers because the units have been found to remain powered when the electrical disconnect handles were removed. The disconnect is a device that is supposed to deenergize the unit when the handle is removed, breaking the electrical circuit that supplies current to the air handler.  The air handlers involved in this recall are models that begin with the letters AWUF and ACNF.  The serial numbers associated with these models begin with 1511, 1512, and 1601 through 1610.  The units were sold by Goodman dealers between November 2015 and October 2016 for use in apartment complexes, townhouses and condominiums.  Mechanical contractors would then install the air handlers along with their condensing units as a package.  Owners should contact Goodman for a free inspection and free repair.  Goodman can be contacted by calling 1-888-386-2075 or visiting Goodman on line at www.goodmanmfg.com and clicking on “Air Handler Product Recall”.  Lastly, the recall number for this recall is 17-103.

 

Carrier Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners

 

The Carrier Corporation is recalling approximately 94,000 packaged terminal air conditioners (PTAC) and packaged terminal heat pumps (PTHP) for problems with the power cords. The units were sold under the Bryant, Carrier, and Fast brand names.  The power cords of these units can overheat and pose a fire hazard to consumers.  It should be noted that approximately 185,000 units were previously recalled in November of 2007 and another 285,000 units recalled in December of 2015.  This recall also includes those units that received a replacement power in the 2007 recall.  The recalled units have capacities of 7000, 9000, 12,000 and 15,000 BTU/Hr and connect to 208/230 volt power.  The recall covers the following units: Carrier models 52CE, 52CQ, 52PE, 52PQ, 52PC, 52ME and 52MQ; Bryant models 840, 841, and 842; and Fast models 840, 841, and 842.  Consumers should discontinue use of these machines and contact Carrier to receive a free replacement cord.  Carrier can contacted by calling 1-800-761-8492 or visiting www.carrier.com and clicking on “Important Product Safety Recall”.  The recall number for this recall is 17-094.

 

Philips Lighting Metal Halide Lamps

 

Philips Lighting is recalling 256,000 metal halide lamps. The company has recognized that the lamps can shatter and cause hot glass debris to fall and pose fire and laceration hazards.  The recall applies to Philips Energy Advantage Ceramic Metal Halide Lamps, model CDM330.  The lamps were manufactured between May 2011 and March 2014.  Both clear and coated versions of the lamp are included in this recall.  The recall applies to lamps with the following date codes:

1E, 1F, 1G, 1H, 1J, 1K, 1L, 1M, 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 2J, 2K, 2L, 2M, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E, 3F, 3G, 3H, 3J, 3K, 3L, 3M, 4A, 4B, and 4C. The date code can be found on the base of the lamp or the glass bulb.  Consumers should stop using the bulbs and contact Philips for a free replacement.  Philips can be contacted by calling 1-866-253-5503 or visiting www.philips.com and clicking on “For Professionals” and then “Recalls”.  The recall number for this recall is 17-100.

Gas Station Hose Swivel Connectors Recalled

The Consumer Products Safety Commission has announced the recall, by OPW, of 824,000 of its fuel hose swivel connectors. The connectors can separate from the hose or nozzle of the fuel pump resulting in fuel spillage and possible fire and explosion hazards.  The connectors are used on fuel hoses at gas stations that sell gasolines and diesel fuels.  The connectors that are recalled are listed below as follows:

 

Model                                                Manufacturing Date    

241TPS-0241C (3/4 inch)             01/01/2013 through 03/12/2017

241TPS-0241 (3/4 inch)                01/2013 through 03/2017

36S (3/4 inch)                                01/01/2013 through 03/12/2017

241-1000 (1 inch)                          01/2013 through 03/2017

241-1000C (1 inch)                       01/01/2013 through 03/12/2017

36S (1 inch)                                   01/2013 through 03/2017

 

For additional information, owners or consumers can contact OPW by calling toll free 1-866-562-5931 or visiting www.opwglobal.com.  Owners and consumers can also visit the Consumer Product safety Commission’s website at www.cpsc.gov/recalls/2017/OPW-Recalls-Gas-Station-Hose-Swivel-Connector (on 4th page of list).  The recall number is 17-116.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: