USA Gypsum bounces back quickly after storm damages buildings

USA Gypsum bounces back quickly after storm damages buildings

Pennsylvania drywall recycler credits vendor relationships, adequate insurance and an emergency plan for minimizing its losses.

April 4, 2017
Kristin Smith
Gypsum Drywall Mixed C&D
usa gypsum insideOn Feb. 25, 2017, strong winds ripped through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Local reports indicate damage from the storm was around $7 million. Terry Weaver, owner of USA Gypsum, based in the town of Denver in the northern part of the county, estimates $2 million of that damage could be from his drywall recycling facility alone.

Weaver was at his home about 12 miles away from the plant when the storm hit that Saturday afternoon. He received a call from a neighbor of the plant who told him, “You better get down here right away. It is pretty bad.”

As Weaver got closer to the facility, trees were down and roads were closed. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to see,” he says.

When he arrived at the facility, he saw that a 125-foot high bucket elevator had blown over and fallen onto the company’s packaging plant. Another structure––the company’s two-year-old steel recycling building––also had been pushed and twisted.

“No one was at the plant when the storm went through, so we were fortunate,” says Weaver. The strength of the winds were estimated at between 75 to 90 miles per hour. Along with USA Gypsum, local reports say about 22 farm buildings were destroyed and hundreds of trees were downed. The shop and the office at USA Gypsum were unharmed. Weaver says it is because he believes the strong winds were about 40 feet off the ground and those two buildings are lower.

Weaver wasted no time getting help to repair and rebuild. “By Sunday morning, we had crews on-site and equipment moved in,” he says. “Work began Monday, and by week’s end we were cleaned up, had the building temporarily braced to prevent collapse and were mostly operational.”

Equipment orders were expedited to replace the tower and within 30 days it was back in operation. Weaver attributes the quick recovery time to three things. “This event points out the importance of vendor relationships, adequate insurance and an emergency plan in case production is interrupted,” he says.

On the vendor relationships he said, it is important to treat your vendors right and fairly and pay them on time. He said crews were willing to drop whatever it was they were doing to come help out. The company was operating in about a week and it took about a month to replace the tower.  

On the insurance side of things, Weaver says it is important to have the adequate cost for replacement value, including meeting any new or updated regulations. He said the building in the front of the operation is about 40 years old. “It’s easy to think you are just going to build it again, but basically you are starting over,” he explains, as that building now has to meet updated codes that weren’t there when it was built. He also says his insurance accounted for business interruption.

“If we couldn’t have operated in a month, how are you going to cover the extra costs and interrupted income?” he asks. He attributes his insurance agent for walking him through all those items that were important to include. USA gypsum

As for the emergency plan, Weaver says it is pretty basic. The company has a relationship with another business about 10 miles away that can handle orders for it in the event its packaging equipment goes down. Weaver says when USA Gypsum put its packaging equipment in, it matched that company’s equipment. This allowed the company to “seamlessly switch over” if needed. And with the equipment being the same, USA Gypsum’s employees can also go over to the other facility to work. By shifting labor and a few pieces of equipment, Weaver says USA Gypsum can cover bulk orders from the other facility.

USA Gypsum recycles about 40,000 tons of drywall per year. Its expansion two years ago allowed it to increase its volume by about 20 percent. The company’s end products are used in soil amendments, Portland cement, animal bedding and a variety of industrial markets.

Weaver says he is now waiting on engineers, consultants and lawyers to determine what needs to be rebuilt at the facility. Weaver says he “was not anticipating a new building project right now.” But thanks to proper planning, the company has been able to minimize its losses.