Emergency Personnel Schooled on Propane Emergencies

Firefighters tackle a huge demonstration fire as part of a conference to teach emergency workers and propane retail personnel how to respond to a real life propane emergency. (image: stargazette.com)

The propane industry has staged a major safety exercise to train emergency response personnel in how to tackle a propane fire.

The 2011 Propane Industry Responders’ Conference was held this week at the New York State Fire Academy. It was staged by the New York Propane Gas Association (NYPGA) and National Propane Education and Research Council (PERC).

The conference catered for 170 attendees from emergency response agencies and propane retail outlets, stargazette.com reported. It featured live demonstrations to teach participants how to respond in a real life propane emergency.

“For these guys, they need to know the physical and chemical properties of propane,” Stuart Flatow of PERC said. “They need to know what they are dealing with.”

Propane is a clean-burning and highly flammable liquid petroleum gas. It is used to heat homes and fuel cooling systems, propane grills and camping stoves. Propane autogas is also the third most popular vehicle fuel behind gasoline and diesel, but produces far fewer harmful emissions and is much cheaper than traditional fuels. Propane is found in abundance in the US and helps reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil.

However a propane fire needs to be handled in a specific way during an emergency and responds differently to other types of fires.

“Sometimes, you just have to let it burn,” Michael Meath, a NYPGA communications consultant, said of the gas.

Firefighters douse massive flames during the demonstration at the New York Fire Academy this week. (image: stargazette.com)

The spectacular fire demonstrations sent huge plumes of red-hot flames into the air. It took place behind the academy. One of the demonstrations included a scenario of how a propane truck could burn off its propane load during an emergency.

“Having to flare off the gas is rare,” Kerry Fitzgerald of NORCO Propane Energy Services said, a 10-foot flame of propane roaring behind him. “But you can’t just let it (LPG) go into the atmosphere. You need to know where it is going.”

The live demonstrations followed expert-led classes on who is in charge during a propane fire and the evolution of propane emergencies. Mike DiGiorgio, director of transportation and safety for Paraco Gas of Westchester said four of five similar programs were staged each year for personnel who might have to deal with a propane emergency.

“These guys have to practice.”

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