Propane is a liquified natural gas and its use exposes consumers to potential dangers. Luckily, there are a number of things that you can do to minimize the risk of a propane explosions or other nasty events.
One of the first things you can do is install a gas detector in your home to warn you about any propane or gas leaks. Install the detector in the lowest point in your house, such as the floor of the basement, because propane is heavier than air and therefore sinks to the lowest point possible.
Although propane has a strong odor, like rotten eggs, do not rely on smell alone to detect propane leaks. People with a less sensitive sense of smell due to age, a medical condition, or the effects of medication, alcohol, or drugs may not be able to smell a propane leak. In addition to a lack of the sense of smell, odor fade, an unintended reduction in the concentration of the odor of propane, can occur due to the presence of air, water, or rust in a propane tank. It is always a good idea to have a gas detector in your home.
Another important purchase is a carbon monoxide detector to warn about any possible carbon monoxide that may be leaked into your house from propane-fuelled furnaces and stoves. It is best to have carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, but it is especially important to have one near sleeping areas.
If you detect propane in your home the first thing to do is shut off the flow of fuel from the tank, if it is safe to do so. This can be done by lifting the lid of the tank and turning off the on-off valve. Leave the area immediately and do not using anything that could cause a spark such as lights, appliances, telephones, or cellphones. Once you are a safe distance from the propane leak, call your propane supplier, who should be listed on a lable on your propane tank, and let them know that propane has been detected in your home.
If you walk into a home and smell propane do not turn on any lights or do anything that could cause a spark. Simply get out of the house immediately.
It is always a good idea to make sure your propane tank is checked at least once a year by a qualified sevice technician. A proper inspection will include a check of all parts of the propane system, including vents. However, even if you have professional inspections, do regular checks on your own for any leaks.
Propane explosions can happen to anyone at any time. The following people's lives were changed by propane explosions:
- In Fall River, Wisconsin, a family was extremely lucky no one was home one night when lightening hit their property twice. One of the lightening strikes travelled through the basement in a liquid propane line. When an appliance kicked in an hour later, the house was levelled by the explosion. Even neighbors' homes were damaged.
- In Oregon, a 60-year-old woman is being treated with burns over 25 percent of her body after a propane heater caused an explosion that destroyed the RV she was living in.
- A Florida woman has filed a lawsuit against Suncoast Energy Systems Inc. after a propane explosion destroyed her parents' home and killed them both. The lawsuit claims that the gas company failed to properly warn the woman's parents about how to detect leaking propane and did not warn them about the dangers of moving and cleaning gas appliances.
- A woman in Montana was killed late in October after a propane leak caused an explosion and fire in her home.