MRO Magazine

New research centre will study impact of fire, explosions and natural disasters on industrial properties

West Glocester, RI -- Conventional wisdom says one should never play with fire or fool with Mother Nature, but that...


January 6, 2004
By MRO Magazine

West Glocester, RI — Conventional wisdom says one should never play with fire or fool with Mother Nature, but that’s not always the case. FM Global, one of the world’s largest commercial and industrial property insurers, is opening a new US$78-million Research Campus where creating devastating warehouse-size fires, hurricane-strength windstorms, dust explosions and electrical hazards is simply part of a day’s work for teams of scientists and engineers.

At the Research Campus, FM Global will conduct extensive tests to help companies understand how to prevent such threats from affecting their properties and business operations. More than one of every three Fortune 1000 companies rely on FM Global to stay ahead of ever-changing property risks resulting from technological advances and natural hazards.

“We believe it’s better to prevent a loss than to try to recover from one,” said Tom Lawson, senior vice-president, engineering and research, FM Global. “Every day at the Research Campus we’ll burn things down, blow things up and give things a good beating-to increase our understanding of the property risks that threaten our clients’ operations.”

The cornerstone of the Research Campus is the world’s largest fire technology laboratory — larger than the size of two U.S. football fields and capable of replicating warehouse-size fires of up to 2,000F. Additionally, the facility houses labs for testing the latest fire-protection technology and features an eight-storey-high moveable ceiling for simulating practically any size industrial facility.


FM Global is credited with engineering new and innovative ways to protect facilities from fire that are widely used today, in industries ranging from semiconductor plants to chemical manufacturers.

The Research Campus also includes a new natural hazards laboratory capable of creating Category 5 hurricane winds reaching 160 mph. Similarly, debris cannons are used to fire lumber, hail and other wind-blown projectiles at speeds up to 90 mph. In addition, FM Global’s facilities can recreate weather extremes, like the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays, as well as freezing, thawing and hail. Tests such as these help determine the long-term performance of building materials and the most sound ways for businesses to protect their property.

The new electrical hazards laboratory is designed to test explosion-proof and flameproof equipment for use in hazardous locations. Furthermore, a dust-explosion bunker simulates the devastating effects the accumulation of dust can have on a facility.

“Unlike companies that rely on computer modelling, our full-scale research provides policyholders with improved property loss prevention solutions, helping minimize operational downtime, supply chain interruption and loss of market share,” said Lawson. “This information is critical for companies to remain competitive in an era of globalization, outsourcing, plant consolidations, just-in-time delivery and cross-border supply relationships.”

According to a recent study of 400 of the world’s largest companies conducted by FM Global, the Financial Executives Research Foundation and National Association of Corporate Treasurers, nearly 60% of companies reported property risks such as fire, explosion, natural disasters and mechanical and electrical breakdown pose the greatest threat to their revenue sources. Perhaps more alarming, however, is more than one-third admitted they are not prepared to recover from such a disruption to a top revenue source.

Lawson added that research, and the resultant knowledge, is the foundation of the value FM Global brings its clients. “That is why, for nearly 170 years, FM Global has relied on property loss prevention engineering and research, instead of actuaries, to underwrite and help clients manage their risks. The Research Campus is at the heart of the value FM Global delivers to clients. It is our goal to continue to protect this value — and keep doing
it better and better.”

Many of the world’s top corporations rely on commercial and industrial property insurer FM Global to better understand the nature and causes of fire, natural hazards and other risks, as well as for cost-effective insurance to help maintain continuity in their business operations. FM Global’s clients benefit from its superior insurance capacity, risk assessment services and proven property loss prevention engineering expertise and research. With offices around the world and more than US$2.8 billion in policyholder surplus, FM Global is rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best and was named “Best Global Property Insurer” and “Best Property Insurer – North America” by Global Finance magazine.