First and foremost, I’d set as my immediate goal to get videotape and photographs of all the electrical equipment in question. When I say everything, I mean everything, i.e. from the entire electrical service, the equipment in the newly renovated areas, the conductors feeding all the equipment, even the lettering describing what type of insulation is on the conductors. I would get pictures and videotape of the electricians’ tools, vehicles, and even the Dumpsters in and around the area. This may sound excessive, but I always expect the worst and hope for the best. Next, I would begin a plan to bypass the affected equipment and re-feed the adjacent stores. If this turns out to be impossible, at least we have video and photographic evidence to review.

Second, I would check out the mall security cameras in all the likely locations for signs of evidence. If there were any UPS/PCS machines with built-in recording equipment, I would review the history.

Third, I would acquire a list of names of people with access to the equipment concerned. Electricians, carpenters, plumbers, HVAC mechanics – whoever. I would want to interview all the personnel involved, especially the electricians doing the installation, and any building electricians. I would want to know the who, what, why, where, when and how. I would want to find out exactly what equipment malfunctioned and investigate the history of said equipment for any defects or concerns. I would also want to investigate the history of the individual electricians doing the work, as well as the history of the company they worked for. The questions I would ask would be obvious: Has this type of thing ever happened before? Has this company and the corresponding electricians done this type of work before? Do these electricians engage in good safety practices? Did they check out the conductors and equipment before energizing? Does the company have drug and alcohol testing? It may be that an electrician dropped a tool on a live part and the rest is history, but it may be much much more. I would take special note as to the work completed thus far. Was the work done in a professional and workmanlike manner, or was it done sloppy and half-hearted? Did the work completed meet the standards of the NEC?

Finally, and most importantly, did the interviews match up with each other? Did those interviews agree with the damaged equipment, or did something else become evident during the investigation?

This would surely be a difficult job without fighting the clock and is made much more difficult with time ticking by to get the stores back up and online. This is how I would begin to approach the problem.

Mark Vallerand
Vallerand Electric Company VECO

Read on for the next letter.