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Facility’s Weakest Link

I was involved in investigating a fire that resulted in more than 100,000 square feet building being reduced to ruble. Performing the fire investigation, we were able to trace the fire origin to an extension cord. The cord was one of those inexpensive cords that can be purchase at a local store. The extension cord was undersized for the appliance it was connected to. The weakest link of this facility was the extension cord. As a result of improper selection of materials and improper administrative controls, the facility was completely shutdown and the business dollar loss was enormous.

A multi-tenant office building lost its entire air conditioning system during the hottest month of the year. The loss occurred due to the electrical failure in the motor. If proper predictive and preventative maintenance had occurred, this loss could have been avoided. By scheduling maintenance repairs during a non-operating period the tenants are happy and so is the bottom line.

Power surges happen on a daily basis and in all facilities. After a multitude of power surges in a factory, a motor drive failed. The motor drive operated a main production line for the facility, causing downtime and increased unplanned maintenance costs. Proper engineering controls by utilizing surge protection and having replacement parts on-hand would have minimized this loss.

Without knowing all links in your facility, increased losses will occur. The unplanned losses are the ones that hurt the most. I encourage you to walk your facility routinely and look in every nook and cranny. You never know who has what plugged into what. Know your equipment manufacturer's maintenance requirements and the recognized maintenance requirements by others. Know your facility, know your weakest links, and plan accordingly.

Tip provided by, Aaron S. Butcher, P.E., C.F.E.I., is a project engineer with SEA Limited in Stow, Ohio. Mr. Butcher investigates electrical and fire losses for legal and insurance communities. Mr. Butcher can be contacted by email at

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