In the Know: Safety tips when facing severe weather

August 1, 2019 By    

Q: What safety steps should propane retailers take when facing severe weather?


Severe weather is experienced year-round, but spring tends to yield some of the most violent weather. Below are items to revisit with your staff and customers before, during and after bad weather hits.

Winter 2019 brought weather challenges, but supply lines hold steady to maintain service. Photo:


Before severe weather strikes:

a. Turn on weather radio to determine direction and severity of approaching storms. Stay calm. Know the National Weather Service warning levels.

b. Review your emergency preparedness plan. This would include:

  • Contact information for all key personnel.
  • Designating an area in, or near, the office as shelter in the event of a severe storm. This location should be known by others working away from the office so they’ll know where to search in case severe storms damage your office.
  • Identifying an area on your property to reconvene for a head count after the storm passes (include off-site, returning delivery and service personnel).

c. Engage emergency shut-off valves/switches. Shut off storage tanks, bottle docks and dispensers ahead of approaching storms.

Severe weather conditions encountered during delivery:

a. Safety steps during delivery operations:

  • If the company has notice of impending weather, all vehicles should be issued a recall notice by cellphone or other means available.
  • If the driver encounters severe weather, he or she should contact the office for instruction.
  • Because we transport hazardous materials, the following steps should be followed in populated areas:
    • Pull off the highway to a safe location like a truck stop, convenience store, roadside park or mall parking lot, away from stores, traffic, etc.
    • Notify the office of your location.

b. Remain at customer’s location when making a delivery. Notify the office and remain in the vehicle with doors locked, motor running and lights on.

c. On rural roads, pull off to a safe location. Head the vehicle toward an exit. Notify the office of your location. The office will notify authorities of your location. Remain in your vehicle with doors locked, motor running and lights on.

After a severe weather incident:

a. Cautiously assess damage after the storm. Watch for downed power lines. If you smell propane, follow established protocols for handling propane leaks.

b. Notify fire, police, ambulance and electric utility services if deemed necessary. Report a hazmat incident if the situation meets established reporting criteria.

Pre-planning for severe conditions:

a. High wind, tornadic activity, lightning and fire

  • Cease crane or boom operations immediately.
  • Seek shelter indoors or in a vehicle.
  • If you’re out in the open, seek shelter in a low-lying area and avoid trees.
  • In areas that could be prone to fires, ensure there is nothing combustible stacked next to the tank, causing a fire to burn for a long period of time.
  • Drivers should look for hazards around consumer tanks and notify customers to make necessary changes.

b. Snow and ice

  • Have customers mark tanks with flags or poles.
  • Ask clients to dig paths to tanks.
  • Make sound decisions based on road conditions whether to delay delivery or call trucks back early.
  • Deep snow hides edges of driveways. Take extra time to find where the driveway ends and the ditch starts.
  • Wait for roads to be treated. Reduce driving speeds. Identify will-call customers who have difficult or steep driveways, and deliver to them before bad weather hits.
  • Utilize chains when appropriate.

c. Extreme heat

  • Provide workers with water.
  • Ensure workers have proper extreme-heat clothing: hats and cool, light-colored cotton clothing.

d. Extreme cold

  • Protect hands and face when temperatures drop below the teens.
  • Know when to say when – many of our employees are dedicated and will work when they should be indoors.
  • Provide cold winter uniforms: hats, gloves, insulated overalls, bibs, etc.

Tamera Kovacs is a financial consultant and industry expert in business valuations and sales at Propane Resources.

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