NPGA panel: Prepare now for natural disasters

March 7, 2023 By    

An emergency preparedness panel discussion at the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) winter meetings in New Orleans focused on how to protect propane industry businesses against natural disasters and other emergencies.

Daniel Dixon of Energy Distribution Partners moderated a detailed discussion involving panelists Christina Armentano of New York-based Paraco Gas, Dale Calhoun of the Florida Propane Gas Association, Randy Hayden of the Louisiana Propane Gas Association, Stan Hays of Operation BBQ Relief and Eric Kuster of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC).

Here are some of the best practices discussed by the panel:

Develop a strong network before you need it.

Disaster plan Image: designer491/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Image: designer491/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

This includes state associations, local government officials and other propane retailers.

Build relationships in your community and know the emergency managers, Hays says.

“You need to know who they are, and this doesn’t happen overnight,” he says. “These relationships make a difference. Many times, it’s the sheriff or fire chief in smaller counties.”

Developing relationships with regulators and lawmakers, and communicating with them in times of need, is also an important part of persevering through an emergency, Hayden and Calhoun say.

And don’t be afraid to reach out to a competitor to ensure customers’ propane needs are met during an emergency.

“We can do so much more together than divided,” Hays says.

Have a written business continuity plan in place.

Kuster says such a plan will help marketers maintain their ability to run the business amid any impactful event.

A business continuity plan might include a checklist of resources that offer support during an emergency: local emergency planning committees, state offices of emergency planning, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. PERC provides emergency planning materials at, and the panel also suggests industry members contact their insurance companies for assistance.

“It all comes down to a plan,” says Armentano, recalling Paraco Gas’ experience with Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and lessons learned in the areas of backup power generation and phone system operation. “Think about every scenario and what you need to do. We need to learn from these crises.”

Prepare early.

Hurricanes offer a window of preparation time, and Calhoun says it’s imperative for the industry to communicate as early as possible – with association members, lawmakers and employees.

“If you depend on the grid like everybody else, have a generator ready to load your trucks,” says Calhoun, later adding, “Work off the top of that tank; don’t work off the bottom.”

While companies must be cautious not to scare customers, Armentano says, education is critical. She suggests using call services to disseminate key information to a customer base.

Hurricane-prone Louisiana is among the leading states for propane and gas generator installations, Hayden says. However, in times of high demand, marketers struggle to meet the needs of customers who have only a small tank and generator that’s used sparingly.

Hayden suggests that marketers consider foregoing “the quick sale” rather than trying to meet the long-term needs of small generator customers.

Propane industry members in the audience contributed their best practices as well. Jeff Stewart of Blue Star Gas says two-way radios have allowed better communication between teams rather than the silo approach of cellphones. 

And while many of the emergencies discussed related to weather events and natural disasters, Tom Manson of Eastern Propane & Oil reminded industry members to plan also for a cyberattack.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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