Propane safety during power outages
When winter storms or freezing temperatures lead to power outages, homeowners often turn to propane for their energy needs, whether using a backup propane-powered generator or portable propane heating devices. Just like any other energy source, propane can be unsafe if handled incorrectly, so utilizing propane equipment and appliances during emergency situations requires a little extra precaution. Here are some propane safety tips to help prepare your family for a possible power outage this winter:
Before a winter storm
- First, make sure the whole family can identify the scent of propane gas (like skunk’s spray or rotten eggs), especially if you have children in the house.
- Check your propane tank to ensure you have enough fuel to last a few days, in case of being flooded, snowed-in or without electricity for an extended period of time. Know how and where to turn off the propane supply in the event of a leak, both for the outdoor tank and indoor propane appliances.
- Install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, as well as propane gas detectors. Follow manufacturers’ instructions for installation, location and maintenance.
- Finally, create a list of safety instructions for your family for winter storms and power outages. Having an emergency preparedness plan will not only provide peace of mind, it can come in handy if your home loses power during a storm.
During a power outage
- If you lose power in your home, turn off all lights and electrical appliances that were operating before the outage to avoid a power surge when electricity returns.
- Use extreme caution when operating portable propane-powered generators. To prevent carbon monoxide hazards, never utilize a propane generator indoors—even in a basement, garage or shed. This also goes for storing extra propane cylinders in enclosed areas and using outdoor propane appliances, gas ovens, grills, portable heaters or range-top burners for indoor space heating. Never use this type of propane-powered equipment inside your home or garage.
- While backup propane-powered generators should always be used outside, it’s also important to keep them as dry as possible by limiting exposure to rain and snow, since they can produce high voltage.
- Should you place the generator too close to cracks in windows or doors, your carbon monoxide detectors will alert you if fumes from the generator enter your home. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath and nausea. If you or a family member experiences any of these symptoms, exit the building immediately or open all windows and doors to clear the air if extreme weather prevents you from exiting your home.
After power has returned
- Once the power is back on in your home, inspect all propane tanks and appliances for any damage. Even if it didn’t rain, power outages can cause refrigerators and freezers to leak water or sump pumps to stop working, so check for standing water before you attempt to turn on any electrical or propane appliances.
- If you suspect damage to your propane system or appliances, do not attempt to repair any valves or operate equipment, appliances, vehicles or turn on the main gas supply—wait until a qualified technician can perform a complete inspection.
- If you sense a propane leak, immediately extinguish all open flames, send everyone outside immediately, turn off the main gas supply by turning the valve on your propane tank clockwise, and contact your propane provider right away. Wait until the area is secure and you have your system checked before returning.
While it’s important to take a little extra precaution when handling it, propane is a cost-effective, efficient heating source that can really save the day during emergency situations like hurricanes, blizzards or arctic weather. Stay warm and safe this winter by sharing these propane preparedness tips with family, friends and neighbors.
Safety tips courtesy of Charter Fuels, with information from the Propane Education & Research Council. Family owned and operated for more than 86 years, Charter Fuels has offices servicing 46 counties across Wisconsin, upper Michigan, northern Illinois, eastern Iowa and eastern Minnesota. Visit www.charterfuels.com for more information.