Bridge collapse highlights response skills of demolition professionals

The recovery work that St. Paul, MN, specialty contractor Carl Bolander & Sons Co. is doing to remove debris from the site of the tragic Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis is typical of the type of emergency response tasks that demolition contractors are capable of, said the executive director of the National Demolition Association.

“Many emergency response coordinators are turning to demolition contractors to supplement First Responders’ work by providing fleets of specialized heavy equipment, skilled labor needed to operate the complex machinery, and years of experience,” said Michael R. Taylor, CAE. “When the Minnesota Department of Transportation contracted with Carl Bolander & Sons, they specifically indicated that they based their choice of contractor on experience, how quickly they could respond, and what equipment they had on hand.”

Bolander, a member of the National Demolition Association, is using four 100-ton cranes and three excavators to process the debris in the $15 million project that is expected to begin this week. Initially, the contractor will focus on removing the debris from the land and then proceed to clearing the channel. According to reports, the recovered debris will be moved to a staging area for the National Transportation Safety Board to reassemble in an effort to determine the cause of the collapse.

The National Demolition Association’s Taylor noted that the state of California has launched a new Emergency Partnership Advisory Workgroup of state agencies and non-profit and private sector entities so that the state has the necessary resources to respond to events such as earthquakes, flood, fires, freezes, mudslides, and the threat of terrorist action.

Currently, the Association is working in tandem with OSHA to develop a Disaster Site Workers Training and Certification Program to train and pre-certify private sector workers so that they can be on standby to respond immediately to disaster situations. “We are already working with many fire departments across the country to support the investigation of fire causes and the cleanup after fire,” Taylor noted. “We want all states and municipalities to follow the example of California and organize their resources before the next disaster strikes.”

The National Demolition Association is a non-profit trade organization representing more than 1,100 U.S. and Canadian companies and many international firms that are involved in the demolition process. Membership includes demolition contractors, general contractors, engineering firms, and firms directly in the waste handling/recovery business, such as recycling companies, landfill owner-operators, deconstruction companies, and materials salvage operations. The Association’s efforts help members stay abreast of regulatory and safety matters, keep regulators informed about issues facing the industry, increase public and industry awareness, and provide members with networking opportunities and information on the latest technical advances in equipment and services. The Web site is and the Association can be reached at 1-800-541-2412.

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