Propane emergencies are closer to what happens in case of a natural disaster than what you should do if you smell a leak. Most large propane companies have information on current weather conditions and whether there are precautions to take in terms of handling or using propane, or protecting your propane tank.
Whatever the situation, the common sense recommendations are to shut off the service valve if you need to evacuate, let your propane company know and have their qualified service technicians perform a leak test once you get home. If you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters, ask for specific recommendations from propane companies. You might even request information about how these companies have dealt with such emergencies in the past.
Propane and wildfires
Wildfires can be a cause for concern for propane users in rural regions that are prone to wildfires. In various areas of the United States, wildfires regularly make local headlines. For propane users in these zones, simple propane tank protection measures are required.
In general, there are easy measures to take to reduce the risk of a fire reaching your propane tank. Ensure there are no weeds in the propane tank area by cutting them and using weed killer, as well as laying down material that prevents weed/vegetation growth. Also, paint your tank a color that is heat reflective and make sure all distance requirements are respected.
If you have to evacuate your home because of a wildfire, close the service valve (clockwise) to shut off gas flow, and close appliance/gas valves inside your home. Propane users who have not already been in touch with their propane company on the emergency should inform their emergency/customer care service of the evacuation.
When you return to your home, avoid driving up to your house immediately. Your company should be requested to send a technician to inspect the premises so you should not attempt to do that yourself. Remember, interruption of gas flow requires a leak test, which only qualified service technician should perform. If you smell gas, leave the area immediately. Either way, do not open any valves.
Propane and floods
Propane users in flood-prone areas run the risk of seeing their propane tank float away if it is not properly secured. To prevent this from happening, after ensuring that your propane tank respects mandatory distance requirements, check that it is not too close to a place that risks being flooded. You might also place the propane tank on concrete pads or blocks and anchoring it there with special cables (companies sometimes sell them). Beyond this, protect the regulator vent. If you have any doubts as to what precautions to take, call your propane company for advice.
If you have to evacuate your home because of a flood or heavy rains, you could order a delivery: if the water does not rise above the level of propane in your tank, the latter will not float away. In the event that it does, keep a picture of the manufacturer nameplate so it is easier to identify if found. If you have not secured it to pads or blocks, chain or tie it to a nearby grounded structure, such as a tree. Remember to close the service valve (clockwise) and advise your propane company of the need to evacuate.
After a flood, it is always a good idea to call your propane company to inform them of the state of your propane tank. However, leave the area immediately if you smell gas and contact your propane company’s emergency number and the local fire department. Since you have shut off the service valve and interrupted propane supply, a leak test is mandatory so you should request one from your propane company. Do not move a propane tank that has changed location through the floods – it is better to ask your propane company to send one of their technicians to do it for you.
Propane and hurricanes and tornadoes
Apart from following the same procedures as with floods there is not much you can do about protecting your propane tank from hurricanes, which can easily lift and displace a propane tank. The best precaution to take is to let your propane company know if you need to evacuate and follow initial propane company recommendations as to how to secure your tank in the best possible way.
Similarly, after a tornado, do not approach the tank if you smell gas. If you have shut off the service valve or if gas supply has been interrupted in another way, your propane company will be required to perform a leak test. Moving a propane tank after a hurricane or a severe storm should also be left to qualified service technicians.