Part I of this two-part series, focused on how grain and feed facility managers can prevent emergencies by following three fundamental safety rules: Keep written safety policies, conduct frequent training and drills, and maintain a good relationship with first responders.
Part II takes into consideration that some catastrophic events, what insurers call “acts of God,” are unavoidable. Structural collapses, grain fires and even bin explosions can happen despite taking all possible precautions and necessary housekeeping measures. While Part I covered tips for rescuing victims from emergencies, Part II focuses on how to rescue your commodity, where to turn to safely handle the removal of burning grain and damaged debris from a facility, and how to aid the operation through access to resources in your own community.
What is a grain salvager?
Salvage firms are generally hired by the insurance company once a claim is filed to recoup as much commodity value as possible, minimize losses and reduce the costs associated with a catastrophic event.
The operation involves removing commodity from a bin, flat storage structure, railcar, or river or ocean barge, using specialized equipment and techniques that cause minimal damage to the product. The unharmed and least affected grain is returned to the owner to market or process, and the rest is cleaned and graded appropriately and sold at a discounted rate.
Houston Grain Trading Inc., of Houston, TX, is a salvage company specializing in managing insurance claims that has been in business for 33 years. In addition to extinguishing fires and dealing with salvage and debris removal, it also works with adjusters to evaluate the claim, document values, negotiate with the insured as the insurance company’s expert and provide documentation on the progress of the operation for investigation purposes.
Other salvagers specialize in removing commodities from specific vessels, such as Hulcher Services, Inc., headquartered in Denton, TX, which has served the rail industry since 1963 as a derailment emergency response provider. Nearly 15 years ago it began serving the grain industry, providing emergency response and facility recovery services nationwide.
There are safety considerations with every salvage job due to the inherent dangers of fire, bin entry, grain dust and hazardous chemicals, so it is essential for the salvager to discuss all potential hazards at the facility with the manager before assembling on location.
Have hazards handy
Jon Kumlin, senior division manager of transfer for Hulcher Services, Inc., says the first phone call is crucial to help the salvager devise a recovery strategy and determine what safety and rescue equipment will be required for the job.
“In our first discussion, we determine the extent of the emergency whether it’s a bin explosion, structural collapse, fire or derailment,” says Kumlin. “Then we go through an extensive list of hazards, including dust issues, confined spaces and the condition of the grain. We need to know if anything is bridged in the bin that would require additional processes to make it a safer environment to enter.”
According to Mike Elder, executive vice president — environmental health and safety, of Cottage Grove, WI-based Landmark Services Cooperative, it’s important to have the facility’s safety hazards list accessible and easy to understand. Elder was on-site during two salvage operations following fires at Landmark grain facilities in 2008 and 2011. He referred to the co-op’s established safety plans when explaining the hazards of each facility to Houston Grain Trading, Inc.’s president Don Jones.
“At one facility we had a number of items that would be deemed hazardous in our safety plan, such as anhydrous ammonia storage, propane storage and other agricultural chemicals,” says Elder. “Although these chemicals weren’t housed next to the grain storage, they need to be noted when developing plans for dealing with fire.”