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ThompsonGas shares lessons learned from 2022 hurricane season

July 28, 2023 By    

Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwestern Florida as a Category 4 in late September 2022.

ThompsonGas’ customers were left wondering when their necessities would be restored.

By being prepared and working together, ThompsonGas employees went the extra mile to serve their communities and each other. As the 2023 hurricane season begins, it is important to reflect on lessons learned.

Preparation was key

Delivery driver Tony Sykes served customers in the Orlando area following Hurricane Ian. Photo courtesy of ThompsonGas

Delivery driver Tony Sykes served customers in the Orlando area following Hurricane Ian. Photo by Todd Tanis

Before the hurricane made landfall, safety preparations had begun.

“We have gone through several hurricanes before and had a hurricane preparedness plan so that we were aligned on communication,” says Benny Gay, vice president of operational support.

Customers were advised to clear debris from their yards and to check their generators.

“We also prioritized the customers of ours who serve their community’s medical needs, so that they were in full supply of propane. From the start, we were in constant communication with emergency responders,” adds Gay.

Recognizing that most of the local teams were going to be displaced themselves, ThompsonGas provided hotel rooms and built in time for employees to get home and tend to their families before returning to work. This preparedness allowed employees to fortify their homes and come back to work distraction-free and ready to focus.

“We looked at this approach as, ‘Let’s survive in advance, and the way we will do that is by supporting our people,’” says Gay.

Safety first, then teamwork

As teams across the Southeast mobilized to work together, it was crucial that they worked with patience and deliberate focus.

Area Director Robbie McKim, based in North Carolina, recalls asking his team: “What do you need?”

The answer was simple: As many people as you can send.

“There was a convoy of trucks just arriving to help,” says Sean Daugherty, vice president of operations. “Once the boots were on the ground, we did our best to supply what each team needed. We finally had to tell people to stop offering to come help because we ran out of hotel rooms.”

Groups poured in from North Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama. Employees who came to assist from out of state brought supplies, bottled water, tank locks, regulators and extra personal protective equipment.

“We want to thank everyone for working so well together and staying calm and collected to meet the needs of the community,” says Gay. “We knew things would be out of sorts. We faced installations, service restoration, missing tanks; you name it. The biggest piece of advice we kept giving was: ‘Slow down, and work with patience.’ All employees were kept safe as they worked, and there were no injuries or accidents during this recovery event. The pre- and post-recovery efforts were just phenomenal.”

Customer care

As the hurricane advanced, ThompsonGas was contacted by more than 400 customers who needed immediate assistance.

“We delivered gas to each person within 24 to 48 hours of their call,” says an employee in Bonita Springs, Florida. “ThompsonGas employees worked tirelessly over the weekend to answer phone calls and reassure our customers that their gas would be delivered.”

An assisted living facility in the Fort Myers area was out of power. It called ThompsonGas to power its generators, and the delivery was made within hours. The home to nearly 40 elderly residents proclaimed itself “A customer for life.”

Another customer from Haines City, Florida, recalled how excited her family was to see a bobtail arrive to her mother’s home.

ThompsonGas teams also worked side by side with first responders and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials to conduct safety inspections and leak checks. This collaboration led to ThompsonGas providing free propane to FEMA members.

The ThompsonGas team based in Florida worked long hours to serve more than 400 customers in need of immediate assistance after the storm. Photo courtesy of ThompsonGas

The ThompsonGas team based in Florida worked long hours to serve more than 400 customers in need of immediate assistance after the storm. Photo by Todd Tanis

Autogas-powered vehicles

With power lines down and extensive damage at every turn, finding gasoline and diesel fuel was problematic.

District Manager Chip Chandler, based in North Carolina, brought down distillate diesel to deliver fuel to those who could not get gas.

Additionally, ThompsonGas autogas bobtails were deployed in the hardest-hit areas where diesel was not available. By having these dedicated Roush CleanTech propane-powered vehicles in its fleet, ThompsonGas was able to serve the overwhelmed communities.

“Fort Myers was hit very hard and was the last area to get power back. Even then, it was difficult to find diesel,” says Daughtery. “Because of that, we shifted propane-powered units into Fort Myers, and this allowed us to keep our trucks on the road when other companies struggled to find fuel.”

By investing in the energy security that autogas vehicles can provide, ThompsonGas was able to travel long distances and meet immediate needs.

Lessons learned

Not immune to the storm’s effects, ThompsonGas had two supporting locations that lost power and suffered damage.

“We had a third-party generator who helped support our Fort Myers location, which was a big help,” says Area Director Todd Tanis. “Having those natural resources and relationships with people helped immensely. Our Orlando office had some flood damage, but other than that, our other locations were fortunately left unscathed.”

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