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Thursday, May 20, 2010

What is Implosion - What is covered by an Insurance Policy


In insurance parlance, many a times there would be technical discussions. The wording are sometimes complicated, tough to comprehend and very difficult to interpret or clear the intention behind formation.

To add to the woes of the Insurers, it is not alone the legal angle or the common (or uncommon) meaning of the terms and conditions, exclusions of coverage BUT the Insurer many times get dragged to explaining the physical properties of the subject matter, the perils – whether naturally occurring or chemical or biological or…….. the most unfortunate thing is to find a commonality in a vast and difference genre. To give a small examples, Electronic equipment policies would mention of computers, Winchester drives etc., everywhere though the coverage is not restricted to computers alone but could cover host of equipments fully electronic or having a substantial electronic component.

Recently a simple question popped up querying what we mean by IMPLOSION – A peril covered under our Policies. Certainly not a simple question - a simple explanation to state is that an explosion is a violent burst directed outward, while an implosion is a violent burst directed inward.

Our Policies (Standard Fire & Special Perils Policy) is a named peril policy and covers loss or damage to the property insured arising out of named perils of which Explosion / Implosion are amongst named perils.

As could be seen, the policy covers losses other than loss of, destruction of or damage to boilers, pressure vessels, machinery where steam is generated arising out of their own explosion / implosion. Thus machineries suffering damage by explosion / implosion as also caused by centrifugal forces are outside the purview of the policy BUT not the resultant damage to other insured property.

For our better understanding, explosion is a rapid increase in volue and release of energy, usually associated with high temperature and release of gases. Chemical explosives are common example where rapid and violent oxidation reaction produces burst of hot gas. Gun powder in arms is one such, dynamite is another. Other than chemical reaction, explosion can also be arising out of Electrical (high current electrical fault), excessive magnetic pressure, expanding vapour etc., also can cause explosion.

The general properties of explosion can be stated to be : Force, Velocity, and evolution of heat. It is the rapidity or sudden release which makes things explodes. A wood or coal on fire releases heat and formation of gases. The energy discharge is controlled in a battery but in a camera flash, it is all at once. When heat us generated in large quantity and released in rapidity, there could be explosive chemical reaction.

In any chemical explosive, upon application of heat or shock, decomposition or rearrangement with extreme rapidity, release of much gas and heat occurs. Thus there would be formation of gases, evolution of heat, rapidity of reaction and initiation of reaction.

Implosion as understood in common terms is a violent collapse inward, mostly caused by compression or by forces acting from outside against it causing it to fold inwards. Here we are not referring to the demolition of civil structures and buildings that occur by the weakening and breaking of structural members by explosives.

A more technical explanation could be description as a process in which objects are destroyed by collapsing on themselves. In some ways it is opposite of explosion as there would be concentration of matter and energy. Under water, the submarines could get crushed from the hydrostatic pressure of the surrounding water. As in the case of explosion, for implosion also the rapidity and strong increase in low pressure are ingredients, the activity forces could be brought about by the decline in heat.

Some examples could be those of the vacuum tube and massive stars imploding. Read that a fissile mass of uranium or plutonium or a combination surrounded by high explosives which compress the mass would also result in implosion. We do understand that suction could be more powerful than pressure. The latter would elicit resistance, former would result in general collapse

Certainly there is much much more than what I have tried to collate. Look forward to the views and explanations from learned friends.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar

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