Electrical fires are one of the leading causes of industrial loss. Point Radiometry is being employed by an insurance company as a low-cost, immediate feedback tool in evaluating electrical systems. Success of the program has been considerable. This paper will include case studies, the difference between point radiometry and thermography, and components of an effective electrical prevention maintenance program.
Specifically for Fireman's Fund, a study of three years of loss data indicates that the average claim cost for fires attributable to faulty wiring is in excess of $100,000. This includes the small $50,000 claims up to the largest property claim in Fireman's Fund's recent history - a electrical distribution panel malfunction that resulted in a $3 million total loss of an unsprinklered plastic injection molding process. The only reason we were on this unsprinklered risk was that there was no storage - all production was shipped out daily. Needless to say, this did not have an impact on the ultimate loss costs.
Outside of the broad category of "Other", electrical fires are the number one loss driver of property claims in the same study. This includes the "Undetermined Origin" causation of fires where one specific cause of the fire could not be determined by either the fire department investigators or insurance investigators.
Hartford Steam Boiler conducted a study of their predominately industrial base clients in 1977 and found that loose connections were the number one identified cause of electrical fires. Although this study is very dated by today's standards, the predominance of "loose connection" fires is vitally important.
Exhibit 1. Hartford Steam Boiler i (available in full paper).
Loose connections will develop in a very specific pattern over time - a stair stepping of heat, breakdown, arcing, weak welds, recovery, and repeat. It is this progression of fault-recovery that can ultimately lead to electrical fires.
For all type occupancy fires, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, report "A Profile of Fire In America" 12th edition, shows that "Electrical Distribution" as a cause of loss is the fourth leading fire causation factor - after Incendiary, Open Flame, and Cooking.
Exhibit 2. Causes of Fire and Deaths in all Property Types (1998) ii (available in full paper).
We are all aware of the hazards associated with cooking, and the insurance industry devotes an incredible amount of resources towards control over cooking and other special hazards.
Exhibit 3. Proportion of Non-Residential Structure Fires and Losses by Property Type (1998) iii (available in full paper)