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Insist on rigid inspection by the underwriting interests.
Require reports to include fires from all sources, or suppress reports covering only electrical fires. Insist on proof of electrical origin, or publish "Cause unknown.”
Where there is no insurance inspection, higher rates should be made on naphtha, gas and acetylene outfits.
VERMONT Have inspections of fires, where cause is not definitely known, made by disinterested parties in connection with the insurance interests.
Anything to make the contractor do better work will help the central station.
Have all member companies report fires in their districts to the association, and have such figures tabulated and published for the use of the association.
Give every publicity to the hazardous character of gas and especially of gasolene installations.
WISCONSIN Publish reports of all fires resulting from explosions due to gasolene or acetylene.
Secure inspection of all installations by competent disinterested inspector, and require permit before making service connections.
WYOMING Closer inspection and increase of rates on gasolene-lighting installations.
Claim made that insurance would not be granted unless cause was given as due to electricity, when fire actually started from other causes. This condition should be changed.
WYOMING Require more rigid inspection of gas, gasolene and electric installations.
ANSWERS FROM UNDERWRITERS The same list of questions as given above was sent out to the underwriting interests, and the committee wishes to express its hearty appreciation of the frank and ready response received from the underwriting interests on these questions.
In the arrangement of the answers below an endeavor has been made to embody the principal points brought out by each person, and it should be understood that no one reply is the basis for the complete statement under a question being considered. In some cases answers are quoted verbatim and in others they have been edited for the sake of brevity. Thc answers were received from various parts of the country, and the conditions existing in one section may not be the same as in another.
(1) Is hardship entailed on the electric-lighting interests by
undue publicity given to fire reports of electrical fires?
Thirteen answers: No; three of which state "provided the reports are correct.”
The reports are beneficial to the lighting interests, as they have resulted in improved devices, improved methods of installation, fewer fires, due to extra precautions, and an increase in the use of electricity.
Careful investigation of electrical fires is absolutely necessary for safeguarding the mutual interests of electric-lighting companies, underwriters' associations, and the assured. The whole scheme of the underwriting interests in handling this subject through its published rules, electrical inspection, testing, advertisement of approved materials and devices, investigations and reports of fires ascribed to electricity, has resulted in an increase in the confidence of the public in electrical illumination. and has been of immense benefit to the electrical interest. Had this course not been pursued at the outset by the underwriting interests, electrical fires would have been sufficiently numerous to influence the public against the use of electricity, and would have caused the states and municipalities to make laws, framed by non-technical men, resulting in great detriment to the electrical interests.
Two answers state that undue publicity would be detrimental to the electric-lighting interests, but that information of the same nature in the hands of those interested from an inspection and commercial standpoint is beneficial.
Two answers state that undue publicity is not given to fire reports; hence, no hardship.
With our enormous fire loss, everything should be done to minimize it, and the best way of preventing fires is to bring out clearly their causes.
(2) ïs there a marked tendency on the part of the public to
assign electricity as the cause of all mysterious fires?
Ten answers: Yes; one of which states that the tendency also exists among the insurance men as well, due to the habit among some adjusters of saving themselves trouble by assigning electricity as a cause of fire because it is feasible.
This tendency may be due to the fact that many people of the present generation have had no training in electrical matters and magnify its powers. It may be due to the exaggerated statements in the newspapers that defective wiring, crossed wires or exploded fuses are thought to be the cause of the fire, in which case electric-lighting interests would do well to see that these incorrect statements are investigated.
One answer: Five years ago yes, but at present no, due to careful study which inspectors have given to the subject, and their constant contact with the chiefs of fire departments and others who are most likely to use electricity as a stop-gap whenever no other reasonable cause appears.
One answer: No, although electricity is properly suspected of many mysterious fires.
Six answers: No.
Not to any greater degree than is shown by ascribing fires to defective flues, spontaneous combustion or incendiarism. The publication of other causes than electricity for fires, after careful investigation of the first published reports, helps to decrease the tendency; and these investigations are due to the underwriters. (3) Does the idea prevail that electrical installations are espe
cially hazardous, and is this idea fostered by the attitude of local contractors and others?
Eleven answers state that the idea does not prevail that electrical installations are especially hazardous, and six answers that the idea is not fostered by contractors.
There is a feeling that the contractors treat lightly the requirements of the National Electrical Code, particularly where it involves any extra expense or prevents them from disposing of cheap or non-approved materials.
Electrical installations are considered either the worst hazard or the least hazardous that the underwriters have to contend with, and the contractors should foster this idea because it leads the public to realize the necessity of employing responsible and competent firms.
Electric-lighting companies would do well to distribute regularly and frequently to their customers simple rules to be observed in putting in, adding to, and using installations of electricity for light, heat and power.
The fact that no charge has ever been made by insurance companies for the introduction of electric current into buildings would indicate that it is not considered hazardous by the insurance interests. The tendency is, however, to charge for defective electrical installations.
The idea may prevail, due to those who apply the torch to their own property and seek to cover their tracks by charging the fire to electric light installations.
Two answers: No, except in a few isolated cases, where contractors attempt to make some customers believe that their equipments are unsafe, for the purpose of securing contracts to go over the installation.
One feels that the idea does not prevail at present, although it did prevail previous to the last five years.
Four answers: Yes.
Through ignorance, or when material is improperly installed.
The general public, while ready to assign electricity as the cause of mysterious fires, seldom concerns itself, after such fires, with the fire hazard of electricity. (4) The tables published last year indicated that there are a
number of more prolific causes of fire than electricity. Would graded rates of insurance in gas, gasolene, and so forth, as distributed from electrical installations, be of benefit?
A distinction is made in the charges for lighting in the more hazardous risks. In sawmills, electricity is shown in insurance schedules as the only standard method of lighting. In the general run of insured property, when properly installed, electricity, gas and other illuminants are on a par.
It is necessary to call attention to the hazard of electricity rather than to gas and other illuminants, owing to the fact that the layman is ignorant of the proper method of installation or the fire hazard involved from bad work; and the unscrupulous contractor does not hesitate to take advantage of this ignorance. In the case of gasolene lamps, we draw a distinction by making an additional charge in the rate.
Yes.. When a thing is subjected to a dollars-and-cents comparison, as in a rate differential, improvement sets in almost immediately. There is always an enforced analysis on the one hand, to disprove the charges, and, on the other hand, an eager analysis of the competitor's defects, to substantiate claims for superiority and immunity. There is no better way to learn the defects of a thing than to go to a competitor. A rate discrimination, therefore, is not only just but good business procedure.
Under proper supervision in installation, would consider electricity as probably the safest form of lighting, and when properly installed, any fault in management in connection with its use can be promptly determined; while in the case of gas no one can estimate with any degree of accuracy when inflammable material may be brought in contact with open flame. As a whole, however, would not consider the difference in hazard between gas and electricity sufficient to warrant any additional charge in rate for either. Would think it advisable to charge for any form of portable lighting, such as kerosene oil or gasolene, or where generating apparatus is on premises.
Graded rates based on known hazards are now applied on all classes of risks; it is general practice with underwriters having knowledge.
Do not believe that any general rule for graded rate of charge can be properly made for the different methods of lighting.