Dodging business interruption land mines
For a major mining operation outside of the United States, the intervention of several TÜV SÜD Global Risk Consultants (GRC) consultants resulted in a potential loss avoidance of half a billion dollars.
All electrical rooms (typically comprising electrical substations, Motor Control Centers & Programmable Logic Controller rooms) are considered critical from a business interruption (BI) standpoint. They are typically provided with automatic CO2 or clean agent total flooding gaseous fire suppression systems initiated via voted conventional smoke detectors. The effectiveness of such systems is dependent on the quantity of the gas, the capability to transfer it to the protected volume quickly, and the ability to maintain an adequate concentration of gas for a sufficient period within the protected volume.
Due to the large nature of the client’s operation, multiple consultants were called in to inspect the facilities. A review of the contractor fire protection inspection, maintenance and servicing records associated with the gaseous protected areas indicated a number of deficiencies, including: no records were available to verify the gas tightness of the gaseous protected rooms, the records presented did not refer to a master list of systems in place, the number of cylinders per system was not accurately recorded, and the cylinder pressures and/or fill level were not identified.
The combined machinery and fire survey of the electrical rooms showed a number of deficiencies where a second pair of eyes proved very useful. Findings included open louvre doors that would allow gas to escape, broken main cable fire stopping at low levels, and a lack of automatic door closers on room entry and within room zones. In addition, gas protection systems were left in manual mode, CO2 cylinders were out of date but still in service, and Pyroshield® and Nitrogen trigger cylinder pressures were too low.
During the survey, the Fire Consultant asked the Infrared Thermographic Consultant to scan some of the CO2 cylinders to see if the liquid levels could be observed. The results revealed that a number of CO2 cylinders were under-filled or empty. These findings were concerning for multiple reasons: unsealed or improperly sealed cable penetrations cause dilution of gaseous suppression concentration, allowing gas to escape and potential fire to spread. This is further exacerbated by the lack of sufficient gas present (inadequately filled/empty cylinders) within the system.
While a fire would not be expected to destroy or significantly damage the substation room/building, it would damage cables and the switchgear before emergency services could respond. However, the true potential loss would be caused by BI, which is anticipated at 100% for one month. The facility in question would face $15 million in BI losses per day; a month would result in a half-billion dollar loss. This intervention of three Consultants represents the value of TÜV SÜD GRC expertise and dedication to loss prevention.
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