This article is the first of a two-part series from “Stored Grain: Fire Initial Response Plan,” a white paper written by Nationwide
Grain storage fires continue to be hazardous for farm and commercial grain operations. A fire that begins in stored grain can adversely affect the storage structure and the stored grain itself. Improper response to a grain storage fire can lead to a complete loss of the grain or a complete loss to the storage structure in which the grain is stored.
To understand how to manage a grain fire, it is important to know the indicators that trigger a fire. What follows are the common indicators for upright storage structures and steel bunker storage/ground pile storage.
Smoke: A visual indication of a grain storage structure fire would include smoke coming out of either the aeration fans or J-vents on the roof of the grain storage structure. Smoke will indicate that there is a hot spot currently smoldering within the grain.
Note that concrete grain storage structures can be inner-vented and tied together with the aeration system.
This means that a fire in one grain storage structure could allow smoke to travel throughout the elevator or annex and escape at multiple exhaust points.
Once identified, multiple grain storage structures in that concrete elevator or annex should be assessed by flipping the grain storage structure roof lids to help determine the source of the fire.
Smell: Out-of-condition grain may be an indication that a grain fire or smoldering core has begun in your grain storage structure. The aeration system exhaust points on a grain storage structure are where the grain operator can identify either a sour or smoke smell from the grain if a fire is present. This would prompt further testing of the grain to determine if the grain is just out of condition or is smoldering.
Rising temperatures: A temperature cable system or carbon dioxide (CO2) monitoring system can alert an operator that a potential hot spot is located in the grain storage structure. High temperatures or high CO2 readings will indicate that the hot spot has potentially begun to smolder within the grain storage structure.
Smoke: A visual indication of flat grain storage would include smoke coming out either the aeration fans, the roof of the flat, or directly off the pile itself.
Smoke will indicate that there is a hot spot currently smoldering within the grain. Smoke is not required for a fire to be present.
Smell: Out-of-condition grain may be an indication that a grain fire or smoldering core has begun in your steel flat or ground pile.
The aeration system exhaust points on a flat or pile are where the grain operator can identify either a sour or smoke smell from the grain if a fire is occurring. This is especially true of ground piles that use air to pull the tarp down upon the grain.
Any indication of sour or smoke smells would prompt further testing of the grain by using a hand- or power-probe to determine if the grain is just out of condition or is smoldering.
Once it has been determined that a fire is burning (or about to begin burning), it is important to take proactive steps in containing the fire and limiting the spread. A grain fire burns extremely hot and is slow-burning. The following steps are the most recommended in the industry and can be completed by grain complex personnel.
Avoid putting water on a grain storage structure fire. Be safe, and call a salvage expert – if for no other reason than to provide situation analysis and advice.
It is important to ensure all workers are accounted for and potential injuries are assessed, along with the need for possible rescue. If the facility has an emergency action plan, it should be activated immediately.
After containment actions are taken, it is important to notify all appropriate parties. One of the first calls made should be to the insurance company. This should be done immediately if one or more indicators of a grain fire are present.
Report your claim through normal channels, whether through your agent or directly with the insurance company. Prompt reporting is critical to allow the insurance company to respond with important instructions and to initiate the claims handling process.
Having a claims representative who is knowledgeable about grain can be extremely helpful and can be requested when the insurance company contacts the insured.
Contacting the insurance company early also will help minimize further damage or harm to the farm or business (e.g., being unable to operate). It also helps get the operation up and running as soon as possible.
Providing specific details, including indicators and any mitigation steps already taken, are an absolute necessity.
The insurance policy may require mitigation steps to be taken to meet the “duties and conditions” provision.
Chances are very good that the insurance company has dealt with similar conditions and can provide valuable counsel. The insurance company also can provide contacts with salvage companies that have experience with grain fires.
Email questions to GrainTaskForce1@nationwide.com.
Part 2 of “Stored Grain Fire Response,” will cover grain salvage and communication with fire departments and emergency responders and appear in the Sept./Oct. GRAIN JOURNAL.
Reprinted from Grain Journal July/August 2020 Issue