Communicate about carbon monoxide

January 6, 2022 By    

We all know about carbon monoxide (CO) hazards. We’ve been talking about it for years, so we can assume that our customers know about CO, too, right?

You would think so, but one thing I learned as a safety professional was never to assume what your customers know, and “common sense” is sometimes not that common.

Wayne Forsyth, former safety program manager for Eastern Propane & Oil and current president of Black Dog LP Training & Consulting, says the Propane Education & Research Council’s CO brochure “is a great way to remind customers about CO hazards and prevention.”

“At this time of year, marketers should be reminding customers that proper maintenance is important to assure the safe and efficient operation of all propane appliances and fixtures such as stoves, water heaters and furnaces,” adds Forsyth.

Here are some other insights from fellow propane professionals on talking to customers about CO hazards, often on a repeated basis.

Not common sense

CO incidents are a major cause of death for users of all types of gaseous fuels, and the reasons are all too similar – improper use and maintenance of gaseous appliances.

In fact, as reported by The Oregonian earlier this year, a father and his teenage daughter died from CO poisoning from a propane heater used inside their trailer. Still think everyone knows not to do this? Think again.

Allison Platz-Velazquez, marketing manager at Delta Liquid Energy, understands the importance of communicating CO hazards to customers: “In addition to mailing safety information to propane users, we also post that information on our website and provide our customers with quarterly newsletters about using propane safely,” says Platz-Velazquez.

Multi-channel communications

It used to be that mailers and faxes were the two modes of communication. But communicating to customers nowadays involves a variety of platforms. That’s why Delta Liquid Energy deploys a multi-channel strategy to speak with customers.

“We also understand that our customers want to receive their information in different ways,” says Platz-Velazquez. “We put all of our safety articles up on our blog, provide them in a quarterly emailed newsletter and provide them in our written newsletters to those customers that do not have email addresses on file with us.”

First responders

Just as it is important for propane professionals to know local first responders, so too should local residents know how to contact them in the event of an emergency.

Paraco Gas understands this and “strives to educate its customers on all aspects of propane safety, including how to recognize and guard against CO hazards and to immediately contact emergency responders when detecting any CO hazards,” says Dave Latourell, director of safety and transportation at Paraco.

“We also stress to our customers the importance of maintaining their gas appliances and to install functioning CO detectors via our mailers and online where ‘propane safety’ is right on our homepage,” adds Latourell.

Carbon monoxide detectors

According to HomeAdvisor, the average CO detector costs $25. While not expensive, those on a tight budget may do without one.

It is important to inform your customers that one of the most common ways to get a free carbon monoxide detector is through community programs. Cities and counties often have free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors available, typically through the fire department.

Even if a customer can afford a detector, they may also get a free fire safety inspection. That’s peace of mind that we all can get behind.

Stuart Flatow spent 18 years as the Propane Education & Research Council’s vice president of safety and training before stepping down in February 2019. 

NOTE: The opinions and viewpoints expressed herein are solely the author’s and should in no way be interpreted as those of LP Gas magazine or any of its staff members.

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