Propane Key to Hurricane Emergency Preparations and Response

Hurricane Irene killed at least 15 people, left millions without power and downed thousands of trees. (image: usatoday.com)

As the US East Coast went into lock down ahead of Hurricane Irene, a major propane company was preparing to step up for the storm and its aftermath.

Propane-powered generators provide essential back-up electricity for critical institutions, like hospitals, police and fire stations, AmeriGas Partners, L.P. president and CEO Gene Bissell said.

The domestically-produced fuel is also used by millions of Americans to power propane grills – invaluable back-up cooking capacity during major civil defense emergencies. A growing number of homes also have propane-powered stand-by generators.

“During the extended power outages that sometimes accompany hurricanes, Americans depend more than ever on propane,” Bissell said.

At least 15 people were killed and millions of others plunged into darkness after Irene’s fierce winds lashed the Eastern Seaboard at the weekend.

The storm forced mass evacuations, brought widespread flooding and downed thousands of trees. As it approached, millions of Americans sought last-minute emergency supplies, with water, batteries, first aid gear and propane tank refills in hot demand.

As well as powering backup systems for emergency response agencies, propane generators provide reserve electricity for countless stores that stock emergency products needed during the recovery phase after a serious storm. Even our cellphone infrastructure frequently relies on propane to fuel back-up generators at transmission towers, so cell phones can operate during a disaster, Bissell said.

With operations in 46 states, AmeriGas encounters weather emergencies of one sort or another virtually every year. As a result, we know how to prepare for and safely respond to emergencies.

The company scrambled extra staff ahead of the storm to bolster delivery services to customers with generators or other special needs. It operated throughout the weekend to meet emergency demand for barbecue gas cylinders, shipping in extra supplies from the Midwest and Deep South to meet customers’ needs.

“Extended power outages and flooding can leave customers with urgent needs for deliveries or repairs,” Bissell said. “Should recovery call for extraordinary measures, we’ll be ready.”

Propane Safety Tips During a Hurricane

To prepare for a storm, check gas supplies for propane grills or generators. Propane tanks should be secured, but never brought inside. High winds, floods and heavy rains can damage installations, sometimes moving tanks and causing leaks.

If you smell gas at any time, you must:

IMMEDIATELY EXTINGUISH ALL SMOKING MATERIALS AND OTHER OPEN FLAMES. Flames or sparks from a lighter or cellphone can trigger an ignition.

LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY.

SHUT OFF THE GAS. Turn off the main gas supply valve on the propane tank, if safe to do so.

REPORT THE LEAK. Contact your propane retailer or call 911 or the local fire department.

STAY AWAY FROM THE BUILDING until the propane retailer determines it is safe to return.

GET THE SYSTEM CHECKED. Before trying to use any gas appliances, the propane retailer should ensure that the system is leak-free.
Go to the Propane Education and Research Council website for more information on propane preparedness and response.

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