Comprehensive Hurricane Safety Information For Propane Retailers and Consumers

(September 10, 2017) As Hurricane Irma batters nearly the entire state of Florida, with an estimated 36 million people affected, major safety concerns loom including damage from catastrophic hurricane-force winds, deadly storm surges, torrential rain, flooding, flying debris, power outages, and many other safety- and health-related hazards.
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Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms recorded in the Atlantic, threatens several states including Georgia and the Carolinas. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) are working closely with each other an with the state associations affected by both Hurricane Harvey and Irma, to provide the information and tools propane retailers need to take care of employees and customers..  

Stuart E. Weidie, president and CEO of Blossman Gas, and former NPGA Chairman, is a veteran of Gulf Coast storms, including Hurricane Katrina. Weidie spoke with The PERC Update about some of the things he’s learned about managing a propane company during emergencies.

With Stuart’s permission, PERC shared this edited version below of his tips for propane marketers.
For additional safety information and comprehensive hurricane-related resources for both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey, visit the National Propane Gas Association’s website at www.NPGA.org. There you will find links to a variety of important information including NPGA's Hours of Service Waiver Webpage, Declarations of Emergencies for all impacted regions, downloadable News Releases to help propane retailers communicate with customers and the media about key safety points to remember during a natural disaster, and also safety information for propane consumers about important steps to take before, during and after a hurricane. This page is updated regularly with new information. Propane safety information for both propane retailers and consumers is also available at propanecouncil.org and propane.com, respectively. Be safe!

Tips for managing a propane company during an emergency:
  1.     Have a single point of contact for employees to call with updates on their status.
  2.     Don’t be in too big of a hurry. Responding too soon could put employees in harm’s way and deplete important resources. 

  3.     Prioritize response to big leaks, elderly customers, hospitals, emergency shelters, and emergency responders. 

  4.     Coordinate with power companies. 

  5.     Remain flexible to allow employees to attend to personal family needs. 

  6.     If shorthanded, ask your state association to mobilize other companies across the country to come help you. 

  7.     Do not send all your resources and crews out at the same time. Have a reserve in place in case authorities, such as the Federal Emergency Management     Agency, needs you to respond. 

  8.     Release a public service announcement on radio, television, and social media to communicate to customers about safety. 

  9.     Urge your customers to get their systems inspected by a professional before they turn their gas back on. 

  10.     Encourage your employees to take pictures and document work done at every customer location when responding to system checks. 

  11.     Collaborate and communicate with FEMA, aid organizations such as the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross, and private local groups. 

  12.    Continue communication with suppliers so you’re ready and available to get customers back into service when they call. 

  13.    Have a central collection site for damaged equipment and tanks and other devices taken out of service. Notify FEMA and emergency responders of that location so they can help provide you access to and from that location when roads are blocked. 

  14.    Have generators to keep bulk plants and cylinder plants operational. Customers will need hundreds of cylinders to be filled during the storm’s aftermath. It is important to keep your equipment, trucks, and plants operational to fulfill those needs. 

  15.     Be careful not to burn out your employees who are working long hours for multiple days. This can make them more susceptible to injury or making mistakes.
(Photo: Associated Press)