Fire Sprinkler Damage to Machinery

Thoughts about the insurance claim issues and the practicality of repair or restoration of equipment after a small fire sets off the fire sprinklers in a shop. February 26, 2012

We just suffered a minor woodshop fire with minor fire/smoke damage but significant water from sprinklers. Every machine started rusting within the hour. We were barred from the shop for nearly two days. Any advice on recovering machines, or will we need to purchase new to get back up and running in a reasonable timeframe?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor M:
Depending on your insurance you might be best off collecting on the damages, buying new. Then possibly offer to purchase the damaged machines from the insurance company. Often they do not allow this, but if they will you can come out pretty good.

Most machines will not be significantly damaged from the water, but time is an issue. TEFC motors should be fine. Simple electronics like motor switches should also be okay. Computer boards are usually pretty well enclosed and can handle sprayed water. That leaves the rust. Buy a barrel of rust converter and go to town on everything.

Can you tell us how the fire started and how your employees reacted? We have no policy, or fire drill procedures. We could all learn from the events that happened immediately after the fire started. Did you kill the power to the shop? Did you rescue computers and backup files? I hope you are back in action soon.

From contributor I:
Call your insurance agent ASAP. Your policy may only pay to have equipment repaired, or they may only pay you for the replacement cost. Your first priority should be getting the building dried out, and they should also pay to have a company dry out your equipment, and take measures to prevent corrosion.

From contributor A:

You will need to clean and mineral oil the beds of machines like joiners and shapers. You will need techs to test each machine and tell you the state of the machine. Get those visits approved by the adjuster, then you need to go from what the techs tell you. We had a third party do all our machines so we had an invoice to give the insurance company.

It depends what your business interruption and policy says. But get the go ahead from the adjuster. If the adjuster is a jerk or a residential adjuster, ask your broker how to get him replaced. We had a residential adjuster that was extremely difficult to work with and in the end he cost the insurance company about $120k in constantly delaying us. You should be able to get a significant advance for the insurance company.

From contributor C:
We had the same problem. One thing that will help the rusty parts is a metal polish. The metal polish we used was Flitz. It came in a small tube and was expensive, but more than worth its weight in gold, and it left the metal looking like new. Hope everything works out for you!