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Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 03:02 PM gHale

A leak in an ammonia tank at the Big Spring, TX, water treatment plant forced an evacuation Tuesday night, officials said.

The evacuation order ended up lifted the next day and residents are back in their homes.

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Fifteen to 20 people ended up hospitalized as a precaution, but there were no serious injuries reported.

There was a leak in an ammonia tank at the plant, but it has now been fixed. The leak forced officials to order an evacuation of the surrounding area.

The explosion occurred after a gas valve ruptured while crews were repairing a leaky tank at the water plant sometime before 10 p.m. The gas valve ruptured at the water plant near the local high school, said Big Spring Mayor, Karry McLellan.

After the explosion, the gas valve began leaking ammonia gas, which forced resident in the surrounding area to evacuate.

Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 03:02 PM gHale

An explosion at the OneOk natural gas plant in Rice County, KS, Tuesday leveled a brick building at the facility, officials said.

The explosion occurred Tuesday at 9:41 p.m. at the OneOk Hydrocarbon Plant near Bushton, KS.

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The blast occurred in the plant’s records building causing a fire that completely leveled the structure. It took crews about 30 minutes to put out the blaze, said Gregg Klein, with Rice County Emergency Management.

Debris from the blast spread on nearby roads and across a wide area, Klein said.

The blacktop road off Kansas Highway 4 leading into the facility remained closed Wednesday morning.

OneOk released a statement saying:

“Last night, there was a fire at one of our office buildings located across the street from our Bushton, Kansas, natural gas liquids fractionator. There were no injuries as a result of the incident, and there was no impact to our fractionator operations. The cause of the incident is unknown and under investigation at this time.

“We would like to thank local officials for their quick response. Safeguarding our communities and employees and the environment is a companywide commitment.”

OneOk does oil and gas production, natural gas processing, gathering, storage and transmission, according to the company web site.

Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 03:02 PM gHale

An explosion at the OneOk natural gas plant in Rice County, KS, Tuesday leveled a brick building at the facility, officials said.

The explosion occurred Tuesday at 9:41 p.m. at the OneOk Hydrocarbon Plant near Bushton, KS.

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The blast occurred in the plant’s records building causing a fire that completely leveled the structure. It took crews about 30 minutes to put out the blaze, said Gregg Klein, with Rice County Emergency Management.

Debris from the blast spread on nearby roads and across a wide area, Klein said.

The blacktop road off Kansas Highway 4 leading into the facility remained closed Wednesday morning.

OneOk released a statement saying:

“Last night, there was a fire at one of our office buildings located across the street from our Bushton, Kansas, natural gas liquids fractionator. There were no injuries as a result of the incident, and there was no impact to our fractionator operations. The cause of the incident is unknown and under investigation at this time.

“We would like to thank local officials for their quick response. Safeguarding our communities and employees and the environment is a companywide commitment.”

OneOk does oil and gas production, natural gas processing, gathering, storage and transmission, according to the company web site.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 @ 12:02 PM gHale

Team Wingin’ It from left, Ernesto Zamora, Maria Ramos Gonzalez, Saju Varghese, Derek Jewell, and Ruben Medina won $10,000 for its approach to tracking Las Vegas street light outages.

To create a safe city, a quick hack can keep the lights on.

That is exactly what a team of UNLV students and grads accomplished during a smart city competition at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month.

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Team Wingin’ It — which consists of UNLV graduate students Maria Ramos Gonzalez and Ernesto Zamora, computer science/engineering alumni Saju Varghese and Ruben Medina, and their friend Derek Jewell — beat 28 other teams to win the $10,000 grand prize at a life-hack competition held during CES in Las Vegas.

This is the first year the “Smart Cities Hackathon,” ended up held in conjunction with CES and the City of Las Vegas. More than 300 software developers and designers from around the world participated in the competition, which focused on creative problem solving using only computer wits, city public works data, and a handful of new technological devices provided by program sponsors.

Team Wingin’ It took 10 of the allotted 24 hours to create software that can help the city quickly identify streetlight outages that need repair — a process currently done either manually by a city technician dedicating countless hours to the task or by relying on resident reports. Las Vegas is now looking to implement the team’s invention.

“The contest’s main premise was how do you create a safe city,” said team captain Gonzalez, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering. “This will increase safety. We’ll have more lighting for pedestrians, cars. Lights won’t be out and unserviced for a long time.”

Gonzalez, who juggles on- and off-campus jobs along with teaching, volunteerism, and her robotics-focused YouTube channel Supershok Labs, initially declined an invitation to participate. But as the competition drew closer, the potential to network with industry giant drew her in.

Starting a Team
Gonzalez and Varghese then invited three more friends for a single team meeting just days before the hackathon.

The five-member team showed up on game day with the intention of working on a project related to energy efficiency in a home — an idea sparked months earlier by an electricity bill that prompted Gonzalez to request and review City of Las Vegas energy records to figure out what had caused her to suddenly rack up a $300 charge.

Team Wingin’ It arrived early, grabbing items from sponsor tables piled high with Amazon Tap, IBM and Honeywell graphical user interface software, Intel devices, and other top-notch technology swag. But it was at the City of Las Vegas’ booth, which offered only a staffer armed with open data and ideas about how to use it, where things clicked.

The city’s director of technology and innovation, Michael Sherwood, mentioned streetlight energy usage data, which harkened back to Team Wingin’ It’s initial idea. It also resonated with Gonzalez because of her work last year on UNLV’s Nevada Summer Transportation Institute summer project to improve pedestrian safety on Las Vegas’ Boulder Highway.

Gonzalez hurried across the conference hall to her team’s station to start downloading the data and begin running simple Excel formulas: “I immediately noticed an anomaly. At night, when there should be energy use reported, there was very little or none at all. In the daytime, when the light should be off, sometimes there would be energy usage. So, I realized it might be because of faulty lights.”

City Sees the Light
The findings were a revelation for the city.

“In order for them to know of an anomaly, someone has to manually sit there and monitor it,” Gonzalez said. “Or a regular citizen has to report it by calling or filing a complaint through their online system. But that doesn’t always work.”

Drawing on their experience as computer scientists and engineers, the team split up tasks and got to work setting up a server, conducting a visual analysis of data, setting up Alexa using one member’s Amazon account, writing dialogue and commands for computerized voice, and running repeated trials on millions of lines of streetlight data compiled by the city over two years.

Within hours, the team created software that with the click of a button would allow a city public works employee, regardless of his or her level of tech savvy, to quickly produce a list of streetlight outages ranked from oldest to most recent. The list includes the meter ID, street name, and outage report date. What’s more, the employee can access the information verbally by speaking to Alexa, which volunteers to email or read the report aloud.

‘Safety is Important’
If the user declines, Alexa humorously scolds the user’s choice because “safety is important.” Alexa’s calm, soothing robotic voice then dismisses the user with a flippant pop-culture phrase: “Bye, Felicia!”

City officials said the invention makes it possible for them to analyze outages and identify possible problems in near real time.

“The winning project addresses a fundamental problem the city faces trying to monitor a very large number — 52,000 — of streetlights covering hundreds of miles of city streets,” said Don Jacobson, city of Las Vegas information technology department.

The project takes Gonzalez, who loved robots growing up, back to her roots. And one of her life’s goals is to help others enjoy technology as much as she does.

“Team Wingin’ It’s project was made for your average home user to use without having technical knowledge. We said let’s make sure a regular person who talks to Alexa will get only the information they want,” Gonzalez said. “I think it’s great because we (society) should be using technology to better our lives. And everybody from every age to every aspect of knowing or not knowing technology should be able to enjoy it. Some people will enjoy using it, some people will enjoy setting it up. I feel like technology should be used to better society, not hurt it.”

Monday, February 20, 2017 @ 06:02 PM gHale

A worker suffered an injury in an industrial accident in Windsor, Ontario, Wednesday night, said officials at Canada’s Ministry of Labour, which is now investigating the incident.

The incident occurred when an electrical contractor fell 12 meters at Southwestern Manufacturing on Peter Street around 7:20 p.m. that caused significant injuries.

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Police got the call saying a man had fallen about 40 feet from a lift.

Ministry investigators said the man was an employee of Cybertech Electrical, and was doing electrical work at the time of the incident.

The man ended up rushed to the hospital in London, but no information is available about the extent of his injuries.

The Ministry has issued an order to not disturb the scene as the investigation continues.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 @ 06:01 PM gHale

A HazMat team got the call as crews battled a fire at Superior Glass Works in Molalla, OR, Saturday night.

The Molalla Fire Department received a call at 8:20 p.m., and when they arrived, flames were visible through portions of the building’s steel roof.

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After learning of several 55-gallon barrels of hazardous flammable materials inside the building, firefighters worked to prevent them from burning or escaping.

The company used the materials at risk to create fiberglass.

Eventually, the fire ended up contained, and there were no injuries in the incident.

Other local fire departments, including a HazMat team, assisted the Molalla Fire Department.

Superior Glass Works manufactures fiberglass parts, fiberglass bodies and custom chassis for automobiles. The company builds, owns and maintains over 500 molds that support the fiberglass operation. It does all of its own mold-making and manufacturing on-site. The company produces 24 fiberglass and carbon fiber street rod and race bodies, according to the company web site.

Monday, January 30, 2017 @ 05:01 PM gHale

Cybersecurity is One Thing, but Figuring Out Where Insurance Fits into the Big Picture is Not So Simple These Days

There was a period of time not too long ago when insurers had an easier time deciding on how much protection a manufacturing operation needed. It was all very cut and dried.

Add today’s cybersecurity issues on top of the physical plant, and insurers are no doubt pulling out their hair because they just don’t know what to do. That is why cyber-physical attacks on critical infrastructure that have the potential to damage physical assets and cause widespread losses are keeping insurers wide awake at night.

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A cyber-physical attack on critical infrastructure occurs when a hacker gains access to a computer system that operates equipment in a manufacturing plant, oil pipeline, a refinery, an electric generating plant, or the like and is able to control the operations of that equipment to damage assets or other property.

A major cyber-physical attack on critical infrastructure is a risk not only for the owners and operators of those assets, but also for their suppliers, customers, businesses and persons in the vicinity of the attacked asset, and any person or entity that may be adversely affected by it (e.g., hospital patients and shareholders).

Because damages caused by a cyber-physical attack can be widespread, massive, and highly correlated, affecting multiple sectors of the economy and many lines of insurance, the insurance industry is giving this risk heightened attention.

The UK insurance marketplace Lloyd’s, London and the University of Cambridge, for example, conducted a major study of the losses resulting from a hypothetical cyber-physical attack on 50 electrical generators in the Northeast U.S. Other insurance market participants have also published reports addressing cyber-physical risks to critical infrastructure. The insurance industry’s focus on cyber-physical risks perhaps should be action-guiding for corporate policyholders as well.

Two Major Attacks
To date, there have been only two major publicized cyber-physical attacks. The first was the use, in 2008 through 2010, of the Stuxnet virus to destroy approximately 20 percent of Iran’s centrifuges used to make nuclear materials. Stuxnet, as ISSSource reported was a joint effort between the U.S. and Israel to slow down or stop Iran’s nuclear program, damaged centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran by causing them to spin out of control while the operators thought everything was running normally.

In the second attack, in late 2014, hackers gained access to the computers of a German steel mill through a minor support system for environmental control. The attack led to the destruction of a blast furnace in the steel mill. German authorities did not allow the publication of many details of the attack, but they did describe the resulting damage as “massive.”

Several attacks on critical infrastructure did not result in property damage beyond the infected computers themselves, but apparently only because of fortuitous events or the narrow goals of the attackers.

Some cases of such attacks include:
• An attack on the Ukraine power grid in December 2015. This was a multistage, multisite attack that disconnected seven 110 kV and three 35 kV substations and resulted in a power outage for 80,000 people for three hours. The attackers’ point of entry – a phishing scam.
• In 2014 the “Energetic Bear” virus was in over 1,000 energy firms in 84 countries. This virus was for industrial espionage and, because it infected industrial control systems in the affected facilities, it could have damaged those facilities, including wind turbines, strategic gas pipeline pressurization and transfer stations, LNG port facilities, and electric generation power plants. It has been suggested that a nation-state “pre-positioned attack tools to disrupt national scale gas suppliers.”
• A small flood control dam 20 miles north of New York City ended up hacked in 2013. The attacker would have been able to control the sluices but for their being taken off-line for maintenance. One report suggested the attackers intended to hack a dam of the same name in Oregon many times the size of the New York dam.
• Last November hackers destroyed thousands of computers at six Saudi Arabian organizations, including those in the energy, manufacturing, and aviation industries. The attack was aimed at stealing data and planting viruses; it also wiped the computers so they were unable to reboot.  This attack was similar to a 2012 attack on Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, which destroyed 35,000 computers.

These are not isolated incidents.

The scope of the cyber risk to critical infrastructure is multiplied when those view cyber not as a discrete risk, but as “being an enabling and amplifying factor for existing categories of risk.” If the non-cyber risk of fire or explosion at an oil refinery is X, then including in the risk calculation the probability of that fire or explosion being caused by a cyberattack leads to a risk of multiples of X.

Insurance Struggle
Insurers in cyber insurance markets are struggling to find the appropriate multiple of X for cyber-physical risks in circumstances of too little reliable cyber-risk relevant information. For U.S.-based risks, the difficulty stems in part from too little publicly available, reliable information on the number, types, severity, and scope of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. Corporate victims generally do not publicly disclose cyber-physical attacks. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not publicly disclose successful cyber attacks on critical U.S. infrastructure. That leaves insurers assessing risk from other sources whose information may be inaccurate or incomplete.

In addition to too little information, market participants point to three attributes of cyber-physical risk that present difficult challenges for the pricing and underwriting of cyber policies. First, cyber risks present systemic exposure – a cyber-physical attack can cause widespread and highly correlated harm across broad geographical areas and multiple sectors of the economy. The Lloyd’s study estimated a cyber-physical attack on 50 generators in the U.S. Northeast could cut power to 93 million people and result in $243 billion to $1 trillion in economic losses, and $21 billion to $71 billion in insurance claims. For comparison, Super Storm Sandy in 2012 resulted in approximately $100 billion in damages and the U.S. GDP in 2015 was just under $18 trillion.

Cyberattacks are “intangible” in the sense the perpetrators often remain anonymous and an attack can go undetected for months. Undetected malware and viruses may be in computers controlling a piece of infrastructure right now. Assessing the random probability of loss, the traditional core task of underwriters, in the face of “unknown unknowns” is a challenge.

The risk is dynamic. The types of attacks, their targets, and the nature of the attackers (nation-states, terrorists, hacktivists, criminals, the teenager next door) and their motivations (espionage/sabotage, political goals, financial gain, curiosity/malice) are constantly evolving. There are virtually unlimited avenues by which such attacks can end up mounted, including phishing scams, “watering hole” scams, the infection of industrial control systems software in the development stages (one of the methods employed by the Energetic Bear hackers), an attack on Internet Exchange Points that form the interfaces between different computer networks, the millions of unsecured and unencrypted devices that are part of the Internet of Things, and the actions of rogue employees.

Multiple Challenges
These underwriting challenges are also risk-assessment and risk-management challenges for corporate boards of directors and risk managers.

This is especially so when these challenges have had a direct impact on cyber insurance markets. The general consensus in the insurance industry is cyber-physical risk is underinsured. The Lloyd’s study said the estimated insurance claims from the hypothetical attack on the electric power generators are less than 10 percent of the estimated damages. This underinsurance of cyber-physical risk is the result of prevalent exclusions for bodily injury and property damage resulting from a cyber incident found in most first-party and third-party cyber insurance policies.

For corporate policyholders that own or operate critical infrastructure, managing cyber-physical risks in this insurance environment may require greater creativity than normal.

The use of a captive insurer, for example, may be an attractive way to self-insure the first layer of cyber-physical risk. Some insurers are selling primary layer wrap policies intended to cover property damage losses excluded under most primary layer cyber policies. Difference-in-conditions excess policies that drop down to provide property damage coverage excluded in the underlying policy are also being marketed by certain insurers. Finally, because cyber insurance typically is negotiable, policyholders may attempt to negotiate terms that eliminate altogether or minimize the scope of exclusions for property damage or bodily injury caused by a cyber attack. London-market Form NMA 2915, for example, provides coverage for physical damage to property directly caused by fire or explosion if the fire or explosion itself ended up caused by a cyber event such as the loss or destruction of electronic data or a computer virus.

Secondary Losses
For corporate policyholders that do not own or operate any critical infrastructure but whose operations are critically dependent upon it – virtually the rest of the corporate community – a major cyber-physical attack on critical infrastructure may have profound adverse financial impacts.

Consider a cyber-physical attack in which the attacker uses its operational control of a piece of critical infrastructure to cause that facility to explode or catch fire. The resulting property damage, personal injuries, and economic losses could be enormous. The potential defendants in the resulting class actions could well include: The owner of the infrastructure, the operator, the directors and officers of the corporations (in shareholder derivative actions), the manufacturers of the digital devices through which the attack was made, developers of the control system software, developers of the security software providing firewalls and malware protection, and any other designer of those devices. Third-party general liability coverage and other liability coverages (such as E&O and D&O coverages) with adequate limits may be essential to the financial health of any defendant.

Stream of Losses
Independent of the exposure represented by potential litigation, which implicates third-party liability coverage, a corporate policyholder upstream or downstream of attacked critical infrastructure will want coverage for its first-party losses.

Those losses may include property damage, economic losses from interruption of its business or the businesses of its vendors, environmental damages, the extra expenses incurred to minimize business interruption losses, and loss of data.

Accordingly, a policyholder who does not own infrastructure but who may be affected by a cyber-physical attack on it will want to have in place adequate and unambiguous first-party coverage for property damage, business interruption, contingent business interruption, and extra expense.

New and heightened cyber-physical risks merit increased policyholder attentiveness to both traditional (not-cyber-specific) first-party property and third-party liability coverages previously believed to be relatively routine and to the terms of cyber insurance policies under consideration or already purchased.

This is especially the case when Lloyd’s itself said first-party property coverages “are commonly silent on whether cyber-related losses would be paid,” and this is likely to lead to coverage disputes. Lloyd’s has further noted “key areas of uncertainty and ambiguity” in the scope of coverage for cyber-physical losses. The risk of a cyber-physical attack on critical infrastructure extends broadly across the economy. Corporate policyholders may find it prudent to review carefully their traditional first-party and third-party coverages and their cyber coverage in light of this evolving and dynamic risk.

Thursday, January 26, 2017 @ 04:01 PM gHale
Small Fire at Grady-White Boats in Greenville, NC, forced an evacuation.

Small Fire at Grady-White Boats in Greenville, NC, forced an evacuation.

A small accidental fire at Grady-White Boats on Martin Luther King Junior Highway in Greenville, NC, caused the boat manufacturing company to evacuate Monday.

The fire should not interrupt operations at the plant, said Mark Doggett, executive vice-president of Grady-White Boats.

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The fire started at 3:35 p.m. in the “small parts” section of the plant in an area about 10 feet by 15 feet, Doggett said. A composite material caught fire, which produced heavy black smoke, much like a burning tire would, Doggett said.

“Tonight we’ll probably get everything cleaned up and start up fresh tomorrow,” Doggett said Monday. “That’s the plan.”

The sprinkler system in the area went off, and Greenville Fire-Rescue with help from Staton House Fire & Rescue Department extinguished the fire within 10 to 15 minutes, said Rebecca Thurston, spokesperson for Greenville Fire-Rescue.

Initially, an employee was missing, and a search and rescue team went to look for him, but the employee ended up located a short time later and was OK. No one suffered an injury in the fire.

Doggett checked out the area after the fire and said there was black smoke in the area, but he expected that during the night, they would clean up the area and get back to regular business Tuesday morning.

Officials did not know the cause of the fire, and the fire department will conduct an investigation into the cause.

The fire was in a newer part of the building at the rear of the plant, and it happened just around shift change, so some of the employees already were out of the building and heading for their cars in the parking lot, Doggett said.

Grady-White Boats employs 290 people.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 @ 02:01 PM gHale

A “manufacturing process failure” was the cause of a plant explosion that covered much of Cantonment, FL, in black soot Sunday night.

The explosion at International Paper occurred at 7:30 p.m., but there was no active fire and all employees ended up accounted for. No one suffered an injury in the explosion.

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International Paper released a statement to explain the cause of the explosion:

“We experienced a manufacturing process failure that released a mixture of wood fiber, water and pulping liquor into the surrounding area. If you or your pets have had contact with the materials, please wash the affected area for 15 minutes with soap and water. If you are experiencing skin irritation or respiratory issues, please see your doctor. Avoid contact with your eyes and mouth.

“For those nearby the facility, we are working with response agencies from the county and state and will have additional information as it becomes available.

“If the materials have come into contact with your vehicle, please thoroughly wash your vehicle and avoid contact with the material.”

Neighbors near the plant have spent much of Sunday night and Monday morning cleaning up the black liquor. Images and video from the area show a black substance covering lawns, cars and streets.

International Paper has had environmental violations with the EPA in the past.
• 2 quarters of Clean Air Act violations – resulting in 1 enforcement action and $3,500 in fines
• 8 quarters of Clean Water Act violations
• 2 quarters of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act violations

The last inspection of International Paper’s facility in Cantonment was 326 days ago.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017 @ 07:01 PM gHale

A warehouse fire that forced nearby Warren, MN, residents from their homes last Wednesday is under investigation, officials said.

Dispatchers got the call at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday for the fire that started at a Nordic Fiberglass facility at South Montana Street and Minnesota Highway 1, Marshall County Sheriff Jason Boman said Thursday.

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Firefighters from Warren, Crookston and Alvarado, Minn., responded to the scene, where the floor inside the steel building caught fire, Boman said.

It’s unclear how the fire started, but it appeared to have originated on the second floor that houses motors, Boman said.

“I don’t know for sure if that was the cause of it, but that is kind of where the fire was at,” he said.

The Marshall County Sheriff’s Department asked residents in a one-block radius from Nordic Fiberglass to leave their homes and find alternative housing for the night. Boman said with the chemicals inside, responders were unsure how the fire would progress and that’s why they took precautions to protect residents.

About 10 homes ended up evacuated, but Boman said residents could return home in a short while.

A trackhoe from Olson Underground of Warren tore down the south and west walls so firefighters could put out the flames. The blaze was mostly out by 11 a.m.

There was significant damage to the Nordic Fiberglass building, though Boman doesn’t believe it will be a total loss. The fire marshal, who was at the scene Wednesday, will return to investigate the incident further.

There was no fire damage to surrounding homes and no one suffered an injury in the incident, he said.

Nordic Fiberglass first opened a facility in 1970 in Devils Lake, according to its website. The company then opened a second branch in 1986 in Warren, which is its headquarters. The manufacturer produces fiberglass products for the electrical industry. That includes box pads for transformers, oil-filled switchgear, ground sleeves for sectionalized cabinets and other products.

Nordic Fiberglass’ general manager did not return messages seeking comment.

Boman gave credit to Olson Underground and the firefighters that helped put out the flames, adding everyone worked to their safety plant and kept each other safe.