Propane provides comfort in emergency response situation

November 9, 2018 By     0 Comments
Blue Rhino, Ferrellgas' cylinder exchange division. Photo By Gary Nylander

Blue Rhino, Ferrellgas’ cylinder exchange division, came to the rescue when residents in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, Massachusetts, were in need of the comforts of home. Photo by Gary Nylander

They come for the hot water and a place to cook. They come for the heat and a place to sleep. They come for the finer comforts that have been taken away at home.

As the nights grew colder in north Boston in recent weeks, residents found even more reason to seek refuge following September’s natural gas fires and explosions in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, Massachusetts. The tragic occurrences have impacted thousands of residents, driving them from their homes and leaving them without heat, hot water or cooking gas. Instead, many have gone elsewhere, including to one of five makeshift RV villages set up in the area.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the sudden explosions were caused by high-pressure natural gas in the system as crews worked to replace aging pipes. The system overpressure damaged 131 structures, including at least five homes, the NTSB reports. One person was killed and at least 21 individuals, including two firefighters, were transported to the hospital. Seven other firefighters received minor injuries.

In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty, propane has played a part as an emergency response fuel. Propane proves itself many times, every year, in the wake of natural disasters and other tragedies. This situation is no different.

Calling for propane

When Gary Nylander, an account manager for Ferrellgas, answered the call, Deployed Resources was on the other end.

The resource company, involved in every major disaster since 9/11, helps communities through emergencies, providing turnkey support facilities and related equipment. Deployed Resources needed propane to fuel RVs supplied by Camping World and Campers Inn, and sought Ferrellgas’ help.

“It seemed like a good idea,” Nylander says. “I brought it up to my manager, and we acted pretty quickly.”

Ferrellgas and its cylinder exchange division, Blue Rhino, mobilized the needed resources, including cylinder trailers, cages and grill cylinders, at the temporary villages. The RV count numbered about 400, and Nylander received word at the end of October that about 100 more were on the way.

“The truth is we really don’t know when it’s going to be over,” he says. “It’s almost November now and they’re adding more trailers. That means there must be an additional need.”

After a registration process, people can come and go and use the trailers as they please. Maybe it’s to cook a quick meal and be on their way or maybe they need a temporary home. Occupancy in the parks had measured about 60 percent, but it increased recently with colder weather in the Northeast, Nylander says.

Of course, propane is the underlying energy source, especially at this time of year. An employee from disaster recovery consultant Hagerty switches out the cylinders as needed. Each trailer uses about two 3.5-gallon propane grill cylinders per week, Nylander estimates. As of mid-October, he counted about 2,400 used cylinders, but says that number could grow based on increased occupancy and a continued need for the villages.

“There are a lot of moving parts and people involved,” says Nylander, calling it a group effort within the company. “We’re trying to keep everything organized. It’s quite a feat, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”

The affected residents seem appreciative too. Nylander has met people in the RV park who, he says, speak highly of the propane service they’ve received.

It’s just another way the propane industry answers the call for help during a time of need.

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