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HOME HEATING SAFETY AND PROPANE SUPPLY CONCERNS

The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management, along with other local Emergency Management Agencies across Minnesota are monitoring and coordinating with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Division of Homeland Security Emergency Management (HSEM) regarding the propane shortage that is affecting Minnesota as well as neighboring states. Governor Mark Dayton has declared a State of Peacetime Emergency in the State of Minnesota in response to the propane shortage to assist mitigating the emergency.

Propane prices have risen significantly reflecting the propane shortages. Consumers and suppliers are reporting prices have more than doubled in the last several days in parts of the state as the persistent cold continues as well as other factors increasing demand and tightening supply. The HSEM State Emergency Operations Center has been partially activated and is monitoring the situation and serving as liaison to other entities both intrastate and interstate. The emergency declaration allows a waiver of service hours for truck operators for the delivery of propane. The United States Department of Transportation has also issued an emergency declaration waiving hours of service for propane transport. The Minnesota Department of Commerce has extended the availability of funds through the Energy Assistance Program for those that are eligible for energy assistance; households that have not previously applied may be eligible. Those that may need assistance can check their eligibility by calling the MN Department of Commerce at 1-800-657-3710, and it will route you to a local energy assistance office. Unfortunately not all residences may be eligible for assistance as it is an income based program.

There is recommendation to conserve propane whenever possible. As uncomfortable as it may be, if you are able to with health and safety factors considered, lower your thermostat to 60 degrees to conserve propane. Use safe alternative heating sources when possible. If you use alternate heating sources make sure they are done so safely. Never bring gas burning grills inside to heat your home, they are not efficient in burning gas and could introduce carbon monoxide. If you use electric or space heaters, follow safety precautions and make sure combustible materials are kept a safe distance away. Turn portable space heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed, they require constant monitoring. Make sure cords are in safe working condition, check them as well as outlets for overheating occasionally. If you use a wood stove or fireplace that you previously haven’t used this year, make sure it is cleaned and functioning properly. Using alternate heating sources improperly is dangerous and not only puts your family at risk, but also emergency responders that would need to respond in the frigid temperatures.

The Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management encourages residents to check on your neighbors, especially the elderly and those that live alone during this propane emergency. The extremely high price of propane is being felt across the entire region and this will certainly be a burden for residents. If you run out of propane or at risk of running out of propane, identify family or friends to stay with. Conserve as much energy as possible. Unfortunately there is little relief in sight, as brutally cold temperatures continue to affect the area. The long term forecast for February is again indicating below normal temperatures. It will take quite a bit of time for supply to stabilize and will likely last well into spring. Propane is being imported wherever possible, including Texas where Governor Rick Perry waived a trucking restriction on the export of propane. The development of the propane shortage has been described as a perfect storm with factors from the extreme cold across much of the country, the late spring last year, early cool and damp fall, availability of transportation resources, among other contributing factors.

Christopher S. Muller

Beltrami County Sheriff's Office

Director, Emergency Management

ph.218.333.8386 chris.muller@co.beltrami.mn.us

 

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