Electric Lights and Insurance.
In discussing the question of defective construction work, says an electrical paper, one of the New York dailies asks: “Why are not the electric light companies responsible for fires due to defective wiring?” It also says; “If railroads can be legally forced to pay for fires owing their origin to sparks from locomotives not properly provided with spark-arresters, why should not reckless electric light corporations be made to bear the burdens caused by their own error or fault? It is clearly possible to introduce the wires in a safe manner, and, failing so to do, the electric light companies invite trouble, which should accrue to themselves instead of to innocent propertyowners or insurance companies. A firm legal application of these principles in a few cases would cause an awakening among the electric people as to the advisability, from a financial point of view, of installing better equipments than they have provided in the past.” There is evidently some misconception on the part of tins writer as to the responsibility of the electric companies and the insurance companies. While there has been much to complain of in the quality and manner of installing electrical equipments in many cases, and admitting the tendency of contractors to spend as little as possible on a job, it must be borne in mind that all the apparatus wiring in any building is subject to the examination of the board of fire underwriters, and such plants are not put in operation until inspected and passed upon by this board. It has long been apparent that electricity has worked to benefit the insurance companies in two directions. It is one of the safest risks which an insurance company can handle if the installation is up to the standard, and this question lies in the hands of the underwriters. The record of fires caused by other forms of illumination, covering the same time, shows the number due to electricity to be trifling in comparison. On the other hand, the insurance companies make electricity an excuse for consid. erably higher rates on buildings where it is installed. Electricity works both ways in favor of the insurance companies, and, but for the object of keeping its dangers before the public, they would have no grounds for complaint.