FIRE AND PLANT EVALUATION
Personal Experiences of Paul Rothenberger, Vice President of Alloy Hardfacing and Engineering Co., Inc.
Why Hire Alloy for Evaluation?
Alloy has expertise in fire and plant evaluations and a proper analysis can lead to increased or decreased settlements of over 1 million dollars in many instances. Alloy has been hired by both insurance companies and rendering companies.
Rendering plants and rendering equipment are unique in their design. For a proper evaluation, you need someone who can identify all of the pieces affected and who know how to determine loss on each piece. There are significant piping and auxiliary items on most pieces. Industry standards for equipment installation and piping do not apply on rendering plants.
My First Exposure to Rendering Fire Evaluation
I conducted my first evaluation about 30 years ago on a batch plant in Missouri. It was an extensive fire, which destroyed the entire plant. An engineer who had retired from the company was hired as a consultant to show the new young engineer how Fire Evaluation is properly done. Duane Dahnert was a patient and methodical teacher with a great sense of humor. He made the fire evaluation a fun experience for me. Most importantly, he taught me how to record each piece, catalog items, photograph and collect data, and how to present a well thought out and organized report to the client. I still follow those same procedures and now I am teaching our young engineers how to do it.
Work for Client and Insurance Company on the Same Fire
Once of my funniest memories is on a project where I worked for both the rendering company and then the insurance company. The rendering company and insurance company had come to a mutual agreement on the equipment loss. However, they did not agree on the installation cost. So the rendering company hired Alloy to evaluate the installation investment with everything installed in the same manner as prior to the fire.
This particular plant had very unusual piping, most of which could not be determined by the photos as the tallow piping was either lying on the ground or the photos were inconclusive as to where they went. In the end, I interviewed the plant manager, the head of maintenance, and a plant operator. What I found in the interview process is that the piping was very complex and operators had multiple options on where to send the tallow from each pump. For example, off of one of the pumps they could go to the SWECO screen, directly to the centrifuge, to the cookers for add-back fat, or to a tank that they used only when the centrifuge was down for bowl replacement. As I went through each pump in the plant and anywhere they had steam cleanouts, the piping became very complicated. We ended up needing to do a drawing showing where each line could go. These various lines could be verified by plant personnel and the cost to reinstall the mess in the same way as prior to the fire was astronomical. In the end, the rendering company received a much larger settlement than they or the insurance company expected. Our pricing and labor estimates were very detailed showing all of the valves, unions, elbows, etc. and the estimate was accurate.
Approximately one year later the insurance company litigated against a contractor who they believe caused the fire in which they paid so much in damages. The insurance company wanted Alloy on their side and for expert testimony in court. So in the end, I worked for the rendering company first, then for the same insurance company who paid damages a year later.
Most Unusual Evaluation
It is not unusual to have fires in rendering plants and there are many varied reasons why the fires start but it is extremely rare for an explosion to occur in any rendering plant.
Alloy was hired to determine if a Dupps continuous cooker could be repaired or if it was a total loss. On a long weekend, an explosion occurred inside the cooker and the vapor bonnet and top portion of the “U” tub were badly damaged. The force required to cause this much damage on ¾” thick steel with reinforcing in the vapor bonnet area was tremendous. No one was at the plant on the long holiday weekend and the explosion did not cause a fire in the plant. This was the strangest evaluation I have completed and I was in awe of the damaged caused.
Most Gratifying Evaluation
A pair of sisters owned a rendering plant that had been in their family for generations. When the plant was originally built, they were isolated and in an industrial area. As the decades passed, the metropolitan area grew larger and homes, schools, and retail areas came closer to the facility.
The municipality received more and more odor complaints but, the plant had been there forever and had “grandfather” clauses regarding their permits and emissions standards. The city proposed a “relocation” of the plant to a more remote location.
Alloy was hired to evaluate the cost of relocating the plant to a new location. The reporting, photographing, and detailed estimating that is used on a fire was implemented on this project, but it is much easier to determine where everything goes and to take good photos in an operational plant.
The investment to relocate the plant and to meet current standards for permits was much greater than the sisters expected. The report was given to their lawyers and Alloy was not involved in the settlement process. There were a few questions about the reporting and estimating.
Several months later, I met with one of the sisters and she was emotional in thanking me for what Alloy did for their families. They did not rebuild the facility and instead decided to retire comfortably. I do not know the amount of the settlement and I did not ask, but I was really touched by her thank you and know I had an impact on their families.
There are many more evaluations we have completed as this is only a highlight of the most memorable ones. If you are in need of an evaluation or need help from an experience company give Alloy a call.