Conscientious builders, remodelers, and propane retailers in areas that are prone to spring and summer “weather events”-tornadoes, hurricanes, and flooding-know that preparing customers for extreme weather, and following up with them in the event of a severe storm, is both neighborly and good business.

For S&S Oil and Propane, a 53-year-old retailer based in Emporia, Kans., the day after a tornado struck nearby Reading, Kans., a town of just 250 residents, was a busy one. Immediately after the tornado-which killed at least one person, destroyed 20 homes, and damaged another 200-service technicians got out a map and plotted where its tornado-affected customers lived. As soon as emergency personnel allowed them to enter the town, S&S techs went from home to home to make sure “that tanks or lines to the house were not damaged in any way,” says David Miller, an S&S sales and service technician. “We also made sure everything inside the home was in good order.”

That is, if there was a home to check. “The tornado just about wiped Emporia off the map,” says Miller.

In this instance, all S&S propane tanks were still in good working order. “In some cases, the tornado took the house but the propane tank was fine,” says Miller. “We had one grain auger that bounced into a tank so it wasn’t sitting upright, but that was about it.”

Of course, S&S advises its customers to properly shut off the propane supply if a tornado is approaching but, says Miller, “most of the time there isn’t enough warning for folks to do anything but take cover. When you’ve got a tornado coming down on you you’re going to protect yourself first.”

Still, there are precautions that can be taken in advance of storm season, especially for those who live in tornado-prone areas. Builders and remodelers should be aware of the following precautions recommended by the propane industry.

  • Make sure homeowners know how and where to shut off the outdoor propane supply and indoor appliances.
  • Describe propane’s odor-a strong, unpleasant smell not unlike rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or a dead animal-so that any leaks are obvious.
  • Be wary of any downed power lines located near a tank that has been dislodged from its service line.
  • If homeowners find a propane tank on their property that is not theirs, or if their tank has become dislodged or is missing, make sure they know to contact their retailer or the local fire department immediately.

“Everybody around here pays close attention to the weather,” says Miller. “When we hear about a tornado the first thing we do is find out where and who so we can take the appropriate action.”

To learn more about the propane industry’s advice to homeowners regarding tank safety during a tornado, check out the safety section of the site.