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Personal crystal balls are notoriously bad at predicting the future. They run on small number statistics, have ill-defined parameters, and small data banks incorporating elastic memories. The crystal balls are plagued or programmed with a logic that is

It could be as innocent as a construction crew accidentally cutting through an underground stone wall that holds back a river. Or as sinister as a terrorist bombing of a skyscraper. Or as sudden as an earthquake. Or as devastating as a hurricane.

The forerunner of the automatic sprinkler first appears in the United States when New England mill owners develop crude, perforated pipe systems to protect their facilities. Although the pipes increase fire protection, they distribute water everywhere (not just on the fire), and the water is delivered by a manually-turned valve requiring someone to be present in order for the system to operate.

Charles E. Buell invents the first sensitive sprinkler (with a fusible element that operates the sprinkler and does not come in contact with the water) that has a deflector to direct the water spray.

Henry S. Parmelee invents the first sprinkler that is used widely by industry. This sprinkler has a brass cap that is soldered over a perforated distributor.

Frederick Grinnell invents a sensitive, metal-disk sprinkler with a toothed deflector that breaks the water into a finer spray.

Grinnell invents the “glass button” sprinkler (closely resembling today’s sprinklers). This sprinkler remains essentially unchanged for several decades.

Lift trucks become common in warehouses, resulting in the ability to store materials at greater heights. Such industrial advances challenge existing sprinklers.

The first standard sprinklers are installed. The standard sprinkler sprays all of its water downward at the fire (old-style sprinklers sprayed 40% to 60% of the water upward at the ceiling). This new type of sprinkler is developed based on research findings that fire spread along the ceiling is actually reduced when all of the water is sprayed downward.

Warehouses continue to grow, making it difficult for standard sprinklers to handle fires in large, rack storage arrangements.

FMRC’s research leads to the development of the large drop sprinkler, designed to control high-challenge storage fires. The 0.64-inch diameter orifice of the large-drop sprinkler produces significantly larger water droplets to more effectively penetrate a fire plume. .

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) sponsors several residential sprinkler research programs. These programs determine that a residential sprinkler must respond quickly, while the fire is in its early stages, to maintain a survivable environment. Also, effective control of a residential fire often depends on a single sprinkler operating. The information acquired from this research guides the sprinkler industry to develop effective residential sprinklers.

FMRC conducts its Early Suppression-Fast Response (ESFR) research program, aimed at developing a sprinkler that will suppress a fire (until this time, sprinklers were designed to control fires). Through the 1980s, warehouses begin filling with products made from flammable synthetic materials, and storage heights continue to increase.

The first ESFR sprinklers are approved by FMRC. These sprinklers suppress severe storage fires that are beyond the protection capabilities of even large-drop sprinklers.

FMRC continues studying the effectiveness of ESFR sprinkler systems in even more challenging applications. FMRC anticipates using computer simulation models as the basis for developing early suppression-type sprinklers for broader applications in less challenging fire situations.

This article adapted from Vol. 5 #2.

It was a startling sight: Six minutes and 55 seconds after a fire ignited in a wastebasket containing typical office trash, flashover occurred and near-ceiling gas temperatures reached a peak of at least 1,600 F. About 90 seconds later, flames filled the entire room and eventually consumed all of its combustible furnishings.

This fire test conducted by Factory Mutual Engineering and Research (FME&R) not long ago stands the notion that office areas are low-risk occupancies on its head. Combustible contents and interior finishes are numerous within office environments, and possible sources of ignition abound. In fact, according to an FME&R study of 490 office building fires, the average loss was $260,000.

Beyond statistics, the past 10 years, a decade which has seen some of the most catastrophic high-rise fires in history, have presented some compelling evidence of the fire hazards inherent in the average office environment.
On February 23, 1991, a 12-alarm fire burned out of control for 19 hours, killing three fire fighters and gutting eight floors of One Meridian Plaza in Philadelphia (See page 265, Disaster Recovery World, or Vol. 4 No. 2, Disaster Recovery Journal ).

On May 4, 1988, a blaze killed one person and destroyed four floors of the 62-story First Interstate Bank Building in Los Angeles. Sixty-four fire companies battled the fire for three-and-one-half hours before bringing it under control (See page 258, Disaster Recovery World, or Vol. 1 No. 4, Disaster Recovery Journal ).
In Atlanta, the June 30, 1989, Peachtree 25th Building fire killed five people, injured 20 others, and heavily damaged the floor on which the blaze originated.

All too often it has taken spectacular events like these to prompt local governments to adopt stricter building codes or for companies to recognize the necessity of fire protection equipment and procedures.

Prevention of loss from such office fires is really quite simple. Tests conducted at FME&R’s full-scale fire testing center in West Glocester, RI, and the statistics on commercial fires clearly demonstrate that properly installed and well maintained automatic sprinkler systems and other basic protection equipment can virtually eliminate the chance of significant losses.

However, fire prevention is more than a matter of installing hardware. Obviously, the surest way to safeguard against fire losses is to assure that fires don’t start in the first place. Companies should make it a priority to develop an employee-driven, five-part Property Conservation plan and to take steps to eliminate hazards.

Despite all reasonable precautions, a disaster has occurred. It could be a flood, lightning strike, fire or act of sabotage such as orange juice in the computer. The actions you and your insured take in the following 24 hours are critical in preventing irreparable damage, so that the affected equipment may be restored to pre-incident conditions. This degree of restoration is possible far more often than one may expect and in situations that, at first glance, appear hopeless.

Corrosion processes begin immediately following a disaster, but corrosion does not proceed at a uniform rate over time. The rate is greatest at or about the time when the fire is extinguished or the flood water has drained. Thereafter, the corrosion rate decreases gradually over time but never reaches zero.

Fire and Halogens

When dealing with fire aftermath, one must consider the effect of chloride ion in ferrous metal corrosion. This ion is almost always present because of the near universal presence of Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) electrical insulation, water piping and other articles. PVC is the most commonly used plastic in the world. However, when heated to over 200 degree Celsius, it decomposes with release of hydrogen chloride gas (HCI). Combined with the water that is either produced by combustion or otherwise present, hydrochloric acid (also known industrially as muriatic acid—one of the most corrosive chemicals known) is formed.

Another point to be considered is the usage of halocarbons in fire-extinguishing systems-known commercially as Halons (trademark of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.) The two Halons used for this purpose are CF3, Br, Halon 1301 or BTM and CF2, CI Br, Halon 1211 or BCF. These materials are highly effective in halting combustion, even at low, nontoxic concentrations. For environmental reasons, the use of Halons is being discouraged, and fewer new systems are being installed, despite the fact that there are no good alternatives to them. Of course, we must deal with the thousands of Halon systems presently installed and in service. Halon 1211 will produce HCI. Both Halons will produce HBr and Br2, (hydrobromic acid and elemental Bromine), upon contact with flame or hot metal. These bromine-containing species are even more active than HCI in promoting the corrosion of ferrous metal. They also will attack copper, brass, zinc, aluminum and even the noble (gold, platinum, etc.) metals.

At the conclusion of the fire-fighting effort, conditions are optimum for rapid corrosion: hot, wet, acidic and highly halogenated. It is not entirely surprising to see moist brown rust appearing on steel surfaces even before the firemen have left the building. Fortunately, this rapid corrosion rate is not maintained for long. The temperature will drop, and ventilation will produce airflow that removes humidity and most of the acidic halogen gases. Within a few hours of the fire, it would be difficult to detect any HCI or HBr in the air. On surfaces inside the building, however, they remain easy to detect in puddles of water on the floor, inside equipment, in brick, concrete, fabric, dust, soot and other materials.

The corrosion processes are slow but continuous and progressive. Hydrochloric acid, which has been trapped in the above reservoirs, will gradually move back into the atmosphere. Being gaseous, it moves with the air currents and condenses on cold and moist surfaces. Equipment not initially affected by the fire will show signs of corrosive attack, even in distant areas of the plant building.

The initial attack of HCI or HBr upon a metal produces the metal halide salts. However, these are not stable when in contact with moisture, They will hydrolyze, or react with water in air of greater than around 50 percent relative humidity.

The Vicious Cycle

The hydrolysis products are basic salts, oxides and hydroxides of the metal. Further reaction may occur with oxygen from the air to produce rust (FeO.OH) on iron or steel. These processes may be written:

Fe + 2HCI > FeCI2, + H2, (gas) (1)
Fe CI2, + 2H2O > Fe(OH)2, + 2HCI (2)
4Fe(OH)2 + 02 > 4FeO.OH + 2H2O (3)

Note that the first two steps constitute a catalytic cycle, with the HCI being re-released, so as to cause rusting of more metal. This attack may occur all at a given place, or the HCI may be carried by air transport to other locations.

It may be worse if the attack proceeds in one spot, because this leads to pitting. When a slight surface depression forms, the oxides or hydroxides produced at the top of the depression are somewhat protective against further attack by HCI, so that the bottom of the depression corrodes more rapidly than the top. Because tiny oxidation-type concentration cells are set up, dissolution of iron is more rapid in regions of lower oxygen concentration than in higher ones. Reaction (3) is favored in the oxygen-rich upper areas that become cathodic with respect to the oxygen-poor lower areas where anodic dissolution, represented by equation (1), occurs.

Iron dissolves at the bottom of a pit and deposits as rust at the top. This process does not require the presence of chloride ion and would continue even if natural diffusion/ventilation processes removed all chloride contamination. Of course, total removal would require infinite time.

In the days following a disaster, corrosion produces its most damaging effects. Sliding surfaces become roughened and bearings lose essential smoothness. Chloride ion migrates to areas previously uncontaminated.

Bacteria and fungi will produce corrosion even on stainless steels and copper/nickel alloys, as well as cast iron, aluminum, and concrete. The sulfate reducing bacteria, such as Desulfovibrio, are supported by sulfate ion, which is produced in fires involving coal, paper, wood or heating oil. Furthermore, electrolytic corrosion occurs whenever two dissimilar metals are in contact with an external electrically conductive liquid. This can cause rapid failure of soldered, brazed or welded joints.

Electrical and Electronic Equipment

Special problems arise in regard to electrical and electronic equipment. Corrosion may attack the copper or solder tracks on printed circuit boards. Even gold-plated contacts are attacked. The usual thickness of gold plating is about six microinches (0.14 micron). Although large compared to the diameter of a gold atom, this thickness is not sufficient to provide 100 percent surface coverage. There are many holes in the plating. Electron microscopy shows that substrate corrosion product erupts like mushrooms through these holes. This product can interfere with electrical contact as soon as the components are moved, especially in low-voltage circuits such as those in computers or telephone exchanges.

When electrical machinery is allowed to continue operating subsequent to a contamination event, the large voltages involved produce major electrochemical attack on metal surfaces. In addition, the electrolytic conduction process will cause chloride ion to migrate into crevices and regions to which it otherwise would not penetrate.
Clearly, corrosive damage as described above can reduce any equipment to a condition beyond economical repair. However, there is no need to allow this damage to occur!

Deceiving Appearances

When an observer arrives at the scene of devastation and sees the red-brown flash-rust coating that arises during the first few hours, he or she may feel that the only option is to replace the equipment. This is a costly option. It involves the direct replacement cost plus the delivery time of new equipment. However, the flash-rust is essentially superficial. The underlying metal is still smooth because pitting has hardly begun.

If the equipment is sprayed promptly with a water-displacing protective oil, the corrosion may be effectively halted for a period of about a week in outdoor storage or two weeks indoors. During this period, a decision may be reached as to whether to restore the equipment.

Full restoration will involve disassembly as needed, removal of contamination, rust removal, re-oiling, reassembly and testing. Competent restoration companies can perform these procedures, in this country and abroad.

For best results, your chosen restoration company should be contacted and asked to perform the initial inspection and protective spraying within the 24 to 48 hours following a disaster. The cost is small and it buys valuable time. When this procedure is not followed, the results may be distressing..

Tales From The Crypt

A One-Month Delay. An electrical fire occurred in a basement area of an office building, exposing graphic arts printing equipment to smoke and corrosive vapors. Four weeks later, our engineers were called and performed an initial inspection. High chloride levels were found on metal surfaces, accompanied by much visible rusting. Chloride levels were lower on nonmetallic surfaces, due to natural processes of dissipation. While some of the affected equipment was restorable, other items were beyond economical repair. Had we been called earlier, all of this costly equipment could have been cleaned and returned to service. Instead, the operator was obliged to use the services of other printers in order to satisfy the needs of his clients.

Another One-Month Procrastination. Optical equipment was exposed to rainwater during transport on a flatbed trailer. The equipment was delivered in a wet and already corroding condition. The purchaser had reason to believe that the equipment was unusable. When our engineers performed an inspection five weeks later, they found that the damage was mostly cosmetic in nature, with some pitting in noncritical areas. The equipment was found to be readily restorable. If it had been dried and oiled when first received, virtually all the corrosion could have been prevented.

A One-Year Hesitation. An Automated Teller Machine (ATM) was dropped from the back of a truck, falling a distance of approximately 30 inches. Subsequently, it was allowed to sit outside the purchaser’s facility, exposed to the elements. Almost a year later, we were asked to send our engineers to perform a survey and inspection. Despite the severe initial damage, the machine had considerable salvage value—at the time of the accident. As a result of a year’s corrosion, that value was reduced to nil.

A Costly Mistake

During a school holiday period, a steam pipe ruptured in a local high school. This filled the music room with a high-temperature fog which condensed on and within the electronic equipment housed therein. Although no chlorides were involved, pipe scale and water additives (corrosion inhibitors and anti flocculants) contacted the affected equipment.

About one month later, our office was contacted, and a consultant was dispatched. At that time, he observed a good deal of corrosion on unprotected metal surfaces. Most of this appeared to be flash-rust, with little pitting. Corrosion on printed circuit boards was, in some cases, fairly extensive.

As might be expected, the higher-valued pieces of equipment were damaged to a greater extent than the cheaper ones. Thus, although complete restoration was entirely possible, it was not considered to be cost-effective.
Had the equipment been dried and oiled (where appropriate) immediately following the incident, there would have been virtually no lasting damage. As it was, a loss of over $20,000 was taken.

Roger P. Gordon is the Manager of Research and Development for RELECTRONIC Service Corporation in Totowa, N.J.

The trademark of the 90s--sophisticated technologies that enable a new ease of communications, both nationally and internationally--combined with the consistent expansion of companies has created a stronger link among businesses and nations throughout the world. Furthermore, the creation of a new European common market in 1992 will also profoundly affect and transform the way in which we conduct business, and it is apt to increase our direct involvement in foreign business affairs. It may soon be insufficient to plan for a disaster that affects only your company if you have vested interests abroad. This survey should give you some idea of the state of the disaster recovery industry in a variety of countries as well as the levels of involvement of several businesses.


Submitted by Wayne Lewis, CDRP, a disaster recovery consultant with the largest bank in the Pacific region:

Disaster Recovery Planning in Australia is still very much in its infancy, but gaining momentum each year. Its development basically was impacted by lack of available education, supported methodologies and distance from those countries which are advanced in this field.

The major banks in the mid-80s were perhaps the first to realize the necessity of being able to fully recover applications in a timely manner, and began to dabble in this field.

Since that time, realization of its importance has been growing--in the late 80s, Government departments (both Federal and State), service organizations, and manufacturing companies began to realize that an interruption to their services would not be tolerated for a long period of time by their customers.

The need, acceptance and promotion of disaster recovery, its principles, and its discipline even today are not completely accepted by some Australian management. However, the overall trend is that management is realizing that DR is not a task that can be done when there are a few spare hours.

DR in Australia mostly focuses on the repercussions of DP interruption or withdrawal (especially when an unplanned incident may have recently occurred) rather than examining DR from a variety of angles. While it is important to secure DP services, they are of little use if your clients cannot access their work place to use the equipment or services.

Strategy development in this discipline requires factual information. Armed with such information, one can then jettison the piecemeal or knee-jerk approach which is often the direction DR takes.

One way to obtain such information is the Business Impact Analysis. This contains the data provided by clients/customers. The BIA data can guide strategy development so we are able to put in place procedures that can be followed to avoid or reduce potential impacts.

Many CEO’s, if they really had an idea of the powder keg they are accountable for and the potential dollars that their company could lost, would certainly act on information available rather than waiting for an event to occur. The acceptance of the BIA in strategy development in Australia has yet to be fully realized.

The number of organizations in Australia that provide effective and viable hot-sites (medium-large), although growing, can still be counted on one hand. Large organizations, being the ones more severely impacted, must often resort to duplicate facilities.

The growth of suppliers and other third parties offering hot-sites or similar type arrangements for mid-range equipment, though long overdue, has been an exciting development in DR in Australia over the past two years.

At this stage, Australian governments (Federal or State) have not legislated to ensure that Financial Institutions have effective or demonstrable disaster recovery procedures in place. Like most DR planners, however, I believe that it is on the horizon.

As the 90s begin to unfold, it is hoped that organizations will begin to be more proactive by looking at the inherent vulnerabilities that threaten the survival of corporations (as well as the gainful employment of Disaster Recovery Professionals!).


Richter Magnitude Scale Measure













NOTE: Earthquake magnitude is generally measured using the
Richter Magnitude Scale while intensity is measured
using the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale.


 Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale








74-95 mph

96-110 mph

111-130 mph

131-155 mph

155+ mph

 Storm Surge

4-5 ft

6-8 ft

9-12 ft

13-18 ft

18+ ft


The Fujita-Pearson Scale









40-72 mph

73-112 mph

113-157 mph

158-206 mph

207-260 mph

261-318 mph













Half Dollar


Tennis Ball












Information compiled from the following sources: Hail and Wind Speed /Hurricane/Tornado - U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Weather Service; Earthquake - US Army Corps of Engineers)

Northern Ireland

Terrorism coverage has been excluded in Northern Ireland for a number of years. In 1977, the British Insurance Association announced a standard form of exclusion relating to terrorism losses in Northern Ireland. This led the Irish government to introduce the Criminal Damage (Compensation) Northern Ireland (Order of 1977).
In order to be able to benefit under this act, a claimant must show that the damage incurred was unlawfully, maliciously or wantonly caused to property either by a riotous assembly or as a result of an act committed maliciously by a person acting on behalf of or in connection with an unlawful association. Under the act, a justification for a claim is a certificate issued by the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary indicating that the loss falls under one of these headings. Insurers have not in fact excluded riot losses from their coverage but many claims under the other section of the order can effectively be considered terrorism claims.


In Spain, terrorism is one of the catastrophe perils covered by the Corsorcio system, which is both obligatory and financed by the government. Premiums are collected by statutory rates on property values. Corsorcio also covers other catastrophes, including floods, and earthquakes, but the system does not include business interruption coverage. There is no restriction on the private market providing this catastrophe perils coverage, but the contributions must still be made to the Corsorcio pool. Companies operating in Spain have no difficulty buying adequate limits of terrorism coverage for property damage and business interruption, and the market tends to provide for coverage other than Corsorcio’s on a difference-in-conditions basis.


In France, full terrorist coverage is available for property damage insurance, and in fact legislation requires insurers to provide this protection. Under this arrangement, the direct insurer has the option to retain the risk, reinsure it on the commercial market or reinsure the risk with the CCR, which is the French state-controlled reinsurer. This flexible arrangement allows direct insurers to vary the percentage that they reinsure on a year-by-year or case-by-case basis. This obligation to insure does not apply to business interruption, although in practice both property and business interruption can be purchased to very adequate limits in the open market. These insurers have not however, experienced losses as large as those that hit London and New York in recent years.

France also has a pool to which insurers are obligated to contribute. This pool provides protection for personal injury to anyone harmed in a terrorist attack. France also has a catastrophe reinsurance program colloquially referred to as CAT NAT. This scheme supported by the government reinsurer, applies a levy of nine percent to all property premiums which pays for catastrophe perils losses. If the problems that the United Kingdom now have were to develop in France, it is likely that an adjustment would be made to the CAT NAT system.

South Africa

In South Africa, there is obviously a very considerable threat from terrorism. In 1976, following riots in Soweto, the insurance market determined that it could not cover terrorism risks and advised the South African government that they were canceling cover. However, a cooperative deal was worked out between 15 of the largest direct insurers and the government. This involved the 15 companies effectively capitalizing a pool called the South African Strikes and Riots Insurance Association (SASRIA); the original capitalization was five million rand spread proportionately according to the size of the 15 companies, which was subsequently raised to 10 million rand.

The arrangement’s main feature, however, was the government’s backing as a reinsurer of last resort. Soon after the pool was established, the reinsurance market became involved in excess of loss protection, and SASRIA is now very significantly funded at four billion rand, or approximately $75 million. Clearly, the pool has very significant exposures, but it seems that the stated objective of the arrangement is to build up the pool to approximately 20 billion rand. Although there are limitations to this system, it seems to meet the needs of most businesses.

This article is reprinted by permission of Risk Management magazine.

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October 5, 2007

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