With the summer months upon I am sure that many of you notice the many lawn maintenance service trailers that are on the streets everyday. Just a few days ago while we were returning to the engine house after a call, I noticed one of the local services mowing a large lot near the firehouse. As we drove past I realized something was different about the equipment they were using.
We decided to stop and speak with the gentlemen using the equipment to cut the grass. Upon further inspection we found that the equipment had been converted to run on LP Gas. After our brief discussion it seems that the push to use this type of fuel is not based on cost savings, but instead it is a much “greener” method of powering the machines. All of the units that were being used had 20 pound or larger LPG tanks attached to them. The tanks were marked well, and seemed to be positioned so that easy visual inspection will verify that the tank valve is off or on. However, as with any LP gas emergency, the valve may not be accessible to allow for simple shutoff based on the situation.
The concern I had when first considering an emergency response to this type of equipment was not really with the equipment itself when it is being used by the workers, since that is an open environment and could be handled much the same way we do when we run other LP gas grill calls. I would however be very concerned if an enclosed trailer that is hauling the equipment were to be involved in an accident, or be placed in storage when a leak could occur and go virtually undetected. Unlike DOT transportation vehicles which are required to have placards etc… and procedures to deal with accidents, many of these services are not required to have any markings that the LP gas is in the trailer, or training to deal with emergencies. For the most part as you all know LP gas is very safe and is being used very heavily in other countries with great results and much less pollution. These areas also report very good safety records regarding LP gas use.
Of course we can’t forget all of the homemade propane conversions that are being designed and built. Just a quick look over on youtube, and you will see there are many designs that are being used on various types of lawn equipment.
I think this is kind of at the stage were Hybrid cars were several years ago, most of us realized there was potential danger but we did not see very many hybrids so there was not a lot of discussion or training for those types of emergencies. As we all know the awareness toward hybrid vehicles is much higher these days. I am sure as this becomes more of a cost savings beyond tax breaks and being environmentally better, we will see many more on the street, and an increased awareness by firefighters and emergency responders. Until then just keep in mind what you could be rolling up to should these LP gas mowers be involved in accidents or fire.
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