CONCORD – For now, focus has shifted slightly from the gross tonnage of snow and where to put it to the fallout property owners are facing with frozen pipes and hazards to damaged outdoor propane fittings and meters.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office along with industry partners at the Propane Gas Association of New England are reminding residents to take preventative measures from snow and ice accumulation. This includes the need for persistent and reoccurring monitoring due to the effects of blowing and drifting snow.
Many residents across the region are experiencing problems associated with frozen pipes and snow load on roofs. However two other hazards commonly caused by snowfall accumulation and icing conditions are:
- Propane and gas leaks that result from damaged fittings
- Carbon monoxide poisoning due to blocked vents
Propane tanks that are covered in deep snow are at risk for leaks, as the weight of the heavy snow can cause fittings, joints, and sometimes even the entire tank to shift. This problem can be compounded by snow being cleared off roofs, driveways, and walkways onto tanks, lines, and fittings. Large piles of snow surrounding tanks and lines can also prevent leaking gas from escaping thus creating a huge pocket of gas that could fuel a massive explosion or leak into your home.
The second issue involves exhaust vents from both gas and oil-fired furnaces, which can become blocked or clogged with snow and ice. A well-tuned and maintained furnace or boiler connected to a correctly-sized vent that is free of blockages will operate efficiently and safely, but an overlooked or compromised vent can produce serious injury or death from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Additionally, a clogged oil tank vent may result in overfilling during refueling, which can cause a spill.
It is very important to remember that the symptoms of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning are so easily mistaken for those of the common cold, flu or exhaustion, that proper diagnosis can be delayed. Because of this, be sure to see your physician about persistent, flu-like symptoms, chronic fatigue or generalized depression. If blood levels of carbon monoxide are found to be high, treatment is important. Install carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of your home.
Fire Marshal William Degnan offers the following tips and preventative measures:
- Prior to a snowstorm, mark the location of your propane tank, vent, and/or oil-fill so that it can be easily located, so that you or others do not inadvertently end up piling excess snow at these locations.
- It is critical that you know how and where to shut off the outdoor propane supply and any indoor appliances in the event that a problem occurs.
- Cover or protect gas regulators, relief valves, fill valves, and other sensitive parts from snow an ice.
- Following a heavy snowfall or icing conditions, promptly clear snow off the top of all tanks, gauges, fittings, and lines. It is recommended that you use a broom to accomplish this task to prevent accidentally puncturing the tank or line.
- Be on the lookout for any signs of gas leaks in and around your home. If a leak is suspected, immediately shut off the gas, dial 9-1-1, and notify your gas provider.
It is our hope that by following these simple precautions, it will help you and your family stay safe and warm for the rest of this winter and beyond.
There are more tips available online from the American Red Cross.
Specific questions and concerns can be answered by your local fire and building officials or by contacting the State Fire Marshal’s Office at 223-4289.