Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sherlock Headphones and "The Case of Hearing NOTHING"

We were enjoying a lazy Sunday morning at 14 Hayes Street; Headphones listening to classical music on his iPod, and I sipping tea and reading a few of my favorite blogs, when the call came.

I could hear the caller through the earpiece from across the room as she was shouting at an octave that would rival an Ozzy Osbourne concert! Something was amiss, and I eagerly awaited Headphones to give me a full report.
“Come Wastenot, the game is afoot!”  

We were already 20 minutes into the ride before Headphones, in his usual fashion, turned to me with a sly smile, “That was Angie Aggravated, the facility manager at Memorial Hospital. It seems that there has been an explosion!” Headphones went on to explain that there had apparently been an arc flash incident in one of the two 12.47 KV switches on a mezzanine servicing a main distribution panel. Fortunately, no one had been injured because the mezzanine was located above the coffee shop and the explosion happened late the previous night while the shop was closed. There was, however, a significant amount of property damage, and no one would be buying coffee in the shop for quite some time!
Angie met us in the main lobby and we proceeded to follow her to her office. The conversation did not begin well. “Mr. Headphones,” Angie said through clenched teeth, “you have been conducting monthly inspections of that gear with that strange looking Ultraproctor thingamajig!” 

“The Ultraprobe 15000 Touch,” the insufferable Headphones had to correct, as Angie was turning crimson!
“Regardless!” she screamed, “now our insurance company is saying unless we can document that we were doing the recommended inspections, there is a chance that they will not pay the entire claim! This has not been a good year for us, and this would cause HUGE financial problems!”

As Angie continued to rant, Headphones was booting up his laptop and methodically running his fingers over the keys.
“My dear Ms. Aggravated,” he began calmly, “we will have no problem with the insurance company. I have detailed monthly reports documenting that there was no apparent problem.” 

“I have already told the adjuster that Mr. Headphones,” Angie said, “and he says there is no way for us to prove that the inspections were done and that there was nothing pointing to an imminent failure.”
Headphones, smiling, slowly stood and addressed Angie calmly, “please cast your eyes on the LCD screen on the wall that I have taken the liberty of wirelessly connecting my laptop to.”

Headphones then proceeded to show Angie and I the reports of the inspections over the last year.  “As you can see,” Headphones continued, “the Ultraprobe 15,000 allows me to not only conduct the inspection, but also allows me to take a digital photograph, which is time and date stamped, of the inspection area, including the name plate data and serial number of the door of the aforementioned switchgear.  This photograph is then linked to a historical record which has the instrument settings, the dB settings, as well as a recorded sound file proving that there was no electrical discharge occurring during these inspections.”   “So, in this case,” Headphones lectured, “instead of reporting findings, we are essentially able to document that the inspection was done and that there was NOTHING to hear.  This should be sufficient to convince the insurance adjuster that the maintenance crew and I did due diligence, and this must have been a random failure that no one could predict or control, which is exactly why you have insurance to begin with.”
As the crimson color began to fade from Angie’s face, she took a deep breath and asked Headphones a question that was also on the tip of my tongue, “what could cause the switchgear to explode without any previous warning, especially since it is in an area with very few people and no one has gone near it since you last inspected it?”  

“Ah,” Headphones said with his usual bravado, “that part of the mystery I solved as we were walking in here and observed the site of the explosion. You are very correct in your assumption that no person has been near the switchgear, but due to its location close to the coffee shop, I was able to deduce that a person did not cause this explosion. Regardless of how diligent your exterminator may be, the coffee shop with its storage areas and large quantities of food stuff is always home to small vermin, like mice and rats. It is very common for such vermin to crawl inside switchgear, attracted to the heat and vibrations, and have a meal of some of the wires and other insulated components. I trust that after a full root cause analysis and forensic investigation, you will find this to be the case.”
On the long ride home, I mused to Headphones, “seems a pity, all that hard work and all those inspections, and yet they still had an explosion.”

“Yes, but look on the bright side Wastenot. Sometimes random and catastrophic events will happen, but at least with proper documentation we were able to get the insurance claim.  By maintaining these inspections we may very well be able to get our premiums reduced.  A win is a win, no matter how small.”
Stay tuned for the next episode where Headphones and Wastenot try to catch their bearings...
Doug Waetjen, CMRP


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