Act Now to Prevent Frozen Water Pipes

Freezing weather can bring the unexpected, from slippery sidewalks and ice dams to one of the most common problems—frozen water pipes. Knowing what conditions can cause pipes to freeze is the first step to prevention. If pipes do freeze, a quick response can keep them from bursting, avoiding the expense of replacement, possible water damage to walls, floors and electrical systems, or even a business shutdown.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), 37% of all frozen pipe failures occur in a structure’s basement. What’s more, pipe insulation to keep water pipes from freezing in the first place costs much less than the price of repairs.

IBHS recommends these prevention steps for businesses:
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Interstate notes that pipes are most likely to freeze in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania and that a 1/8 inch crack can cause the loss of 250 gallons of water per day and damages from $2,000 to $100,000.

According to Interstate:
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If pipes freeze, Interstate recommends:
Do:

  • Turn off the water flow using the main water valve
  • Inspect the pipe carefully for cracks or damage
  • Consult a plumber for advice, if you find cracks or signs of damage (also be sure to consult a professional if you aren’t sure which pipe is frozen and/or you are unable to inspect it)
  • Thaw the pipe gradually using a hair dryer or space heater
  • Confirm the pipe has thawed by turning the main water valve back on and making sure that water flows
  • Take steps to raise the temperature in the area where the pipe froze or insulate the pipe

Don’t:

  • Use a blow torch or open flame to thaw a frozen pipe – open heat sources can cause fires and other safety hazards
  • Stand in water while you are operating an electrical heater, dryer or any appliance—you could be electrocuted

Moving Employees Safely is Critical in Oil & Gas Industry

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The oil, gas and marine industry has always teetered on the brink of unfortunate circumstances. Oil rigs and oil tankers, by the very nature of their massive size and exposure to the elements, are susceptible to myriad dangers. And when those risks materialize, the safety of the men and women operating these maritime behemoths must take top priority.

In the case of a hurricane, energy giant Shell Oil says it begins evacuating non-essential personnel from offshore platforms and drilling rigs, starting with sites closest to the hurricane’s anticipated path. Like Shell, most of the larger oil companies have evacuation down to a science, particularly during hurricane season. In many cases the evacuation from oil rigs or oil tankers is highly manageable, with no more than a few dozen people having to be transported at times. Thus, in most cases, the evacuees can simply grab a taxi, book themselves into a hotel room, or make other similar accommodations.

But what happens when the evacuation is so immense that you are suddenly relocating thousands of workers to the nearest mainland? In October 2014, with the threat of a cyclone ready to batter the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex, evacuated 15,000 workers from more than 60 platforms in the Gulf of Mexico—all with the need to be transported and lodged.

Anticipating worst case scenarios is a prerequisite. Although travel by executives at the C-suite level in these types of companies is handled with the highest priority, to deal with the constant movement of lower-level workers, many companies enlist the services of travel management companies to coordinate getting personnel from land to rigs, tankers, drills and pipelines and back. This massive orchestration includes coordinating accommodations, lodging, weather alerts, translation services and other types of ticketing.

Certain industries, such as oil and gas, need to send employees to work in the world’s “hot zones.” According to a USA Today report, three Americans were among 38 workers killed in the 2013 siege of an Algerian gas plant in which Islamic terrorists used hostages as human shields after their attempted mass kidnapping for ransom went awry. Seven U.S. citizens survived the attack. This illustrates that the need to move crews swiftly isn’t always at the mercy of weather conditions. This is where a real-time knowledge of the current political climate is necessary, including the best exit points, and how to travel safely within those countries should the need to evacuate a facility arise.

Other times the challenge includes getting workers from a major airport to a remote location—perhaps where a helicopter undertakes the last leg of the trip out to the site. Oil and gas industry travelers also need to realize that the flight on a major airline to get into a somewhat unstable country isn’t the problem; it’s traveling within the country, where options are often very limited.

Fortunately, the recent boom in technology has helped make personnel travel safer, as they can now receive electronic alerts regarding risks such as natural catastrophes, labor strikes, and changes in flight schedules.

There is the potential for a number of problems to arise when operating these marine locations, both weather-related and man-made. And the cost of finding solutions to these situations can often be crippling and costly to a business, both in terms of valuable staff time wasted as well as the difficulty in finding the time or the resources to source viable, inexpensive travel alternatives.

Flint Water Investigation Leads to Felony Charges for Mich. State Employees

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A driving effort to save the state money was said to be the reasoning behind the Flint, Michigan water crisis, which has been tied to lead poisoning in children, among other issues. On Tuesday the state announced felony charges against former state emergency managers, Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose, accused of false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses. The two were said to have been focused on balance sheets rather than the welfare of citizens when they made the decision in 2014 to switch the city’s water supply from treated water in Lake Huron to water from the Flint River.

A state investigation, which began in January, had led to charges against eight state officials and an employee of the Flint water facility.

According to the New York Times:

Charges of false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty lodged against the former managers were lauded by Flint leaders, some of whom said they had feared that blame for the city’s contaminated water might ultimately be pinned only on low-level workers.

The claims also reopened a longstanding debate in Michigan over the state’s emergency management provision, reviving questions about whether the system removes power and control over local issues from those residents who come under state oversight.

For years, governors here have appointed emergency managers as a way to efficiently cut debts and restore financial stability in the most troubled cities. But residents of some majority-black Michigan cities, including Flint, argue that the intense state-assigned oversight disenfranchises voters, shifts control from mostly Democratic cities to the state’s Republican-held capital and risks favoring financial discipline over public health.

After the decision was made to use water from the Flint River, Flint residents had began to notice a peculiar odor, color and taste in the water that flowed from their taps. Some reported skin rashes, hair loss and other physical problems. But they did not know why. Water from the Flint River was used by Flint residents for 18 months, but because it was not treated to reduce corrosion, lead from old plumbing leached into the water. Testing revealed dangerous levels of lead.

Residents soon discovered they had been lied to. Public officials had known about the lead but kept quiet. As a result, between 6,000 and 12,000 children were exposed to the contaminated water, which will likely have serious consequences for their health.

Meanwhile, efforts to fix the problem are underway. State officials switched back to the original water source in October. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has estimated that replacing the more than 15,000 lead service lines in Flint would take $60 million and up to 15 years.

Driver Data: Advances in Innovative Exchange

With an innovation worthy of the digital age, the field of vehicle telematics is bringing auto manufacturers and insurance companies into sharper alignment. Now, data recorded in an individual vehicle can be “crunched” to yield insightstelematics about driving behavior—insights that can shed light on a driver’s risk category. In a further innovation, 2016 brought the establishment of a telematics data exchange, enabling risk managers to make use of this data with the consent of drivers.

Telematics data can potentially benefit consumers, fleet owners and insurers. Instead of insurers generally relying on a driver’s general information—age or gender, for example—policies can be written to address specific levels of risk supported by actual driving data (speed, acceleration, braking and time of operation). So the elements are falling into place to tap telematics-derived data, with potential for also attaining higher fuel efficiency and better fleet vehicle performance.

How do consumers and fleet owners benefit?

  • Rewards: Discounted insurance for drivers who have fewer risks or lower annual miles
  • Ease: Greater convenience, flexibility, and portability when shopping for auto insurance
  • Safety: Promotion of good driving habits
  • Savings: Insurers’ enhanced ability to segment risk types, potentially lowering premium costs for commercial fleet owners and managers

History of an idea

The seed for telematics was planted in the early 1960s, during a period when tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Union were escalating. That is also when the U.S. government, intent on national security and concerned about a potential nuclear threat, funded development of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. Initially, GPS was intended for military and intelligence applications. By the early 2000s, telematics technologies were used in web-based fleet management systems that featured real-time information updates to remote networks. At that time, slow tracking rates limited data transmissions to one or two instances per hour. It wasn’t long, however, before GPS-based vehicle navigation systems flooded the consumer market.

Aligning value

In recent years, telematics has brought auto manufacturers and insurers into alignment, with both industries recognizing the potential of telematics. Automakers have found value in using telematics data to communicate information to car owners about their vehicle’s maintenance needs and performance and to convey information to consumers about their driving behavior, which could lead to safer driving. In turn, safer driving—such as fewer sharp turns and hard-braking incidents—could positively affect vehicle performance and fuel efficiency. And insurers have found a means to help better define risks.

Automakers also recognized that better fuel efficiency and less wear and tear (requiring less maintenance) could potentially save money for consumers, thereby reducing the total cost of car ownership.

Many insurers, too, quickly saw the inherent value of telematics data. Traditionally, insurers rate consumers on various factors that typically include proxy data to predict an individual’s risk level, which helps determine rates. Some consumers may complain that not enough insight goes into the rating process. Yet telematics data, applied through usage-based insurance (UBI) programs, allows insurers to consider details of individual driving behavior—which might lead to more accurate and customized pricing. Insurance rating could become more focused on individual behavior and performance. Insurers understand that a benefit of using telematics data as part of their underwriting practices can include the consumer’s perception that carriers are operating with greater transparency—and potentially give consumers greater understanding of their auto insurance expenses.

Consumers could now examine their own driving data—and likely this data overlapped with the data their insurance company reviewed when establishing their rate in the first place.

Great leap forward

For some time, we’ve said that a telematics data exchange might represent the future of usage-based insurance. That future isn’t far away. Consider this: It is estimated that by 2020, more than 90% of all new vehicles sold in the United States will be able to connect to the internet. Today, about 5% of vehicles are so equipped. That is a powerful leap forward in terms of the data that will be available from connected cars.

This gives auto-makers the potential to capitalize on vast amounts of data collected by the connected cars they sell. Insurers can benefit by potentially enhancing their efforts to acquire and retain safer drivers and monitor their policyholders’ driving behavior and vehicle mileage.

There can be corresponding challenges related to such connected vehicle data, however. The volume of data from connected cars is enormous and growing. The hardware, software, and carrying costs needed to store and manage that data can run into the millions of dollars—a cost many insurers may find onerous. Automakers face their own set of issues, chief among them being the “many-to-many” problem: how to connect with hundreds of insurers that might be interested in accessing their data. While those are just a few of the multiple hurdles to overcome when harvesting exponentially growing stores of data, these are challenges that a telematics data exchange can help address. That is why the launch of the first data exchange marks such a critical milestone in the history of telematics.