Sunday, March 01, 2020 by Franz Walker
The question of bringing fuel is something that tends to come up for preppers who are making their survival kits. Fuels, such as propane, can be useful for providing fire for heat and cooking in short-term situations and crisis. However, these fuels also bring with them some risks.
When choosing fuels, most preppers opt for propane due to its versatility and availability. Unlike some other fuels, propane can last longer as it can be used both as a vapor in some applications and a liquid in others. This versatility means that many businesses and households, especially in rural areas, utilize propane. In turn, this guarantees that people can easily get access to it.
Another advantage of propane comes from its ability to be transported as a liquid. Unlike natural gas, another fuel used for heating and cooking, propane doesn’t need to be pumped directly into homes – liquid propane can be easily transported in cylinders.
For short-term situations, a 20-pound or larger cylinder of propane can supply a camp stove, a grill and even a small heater. How long each cylinder lasts will vary depending on what it is being used for. A cylinder being used in the summer to cook on a grill or camp stove can last for a couple of weeks. This is perfect for a short-term survival kit as it means that preppers won’t have to spend time foraging for wood or other fuels for cooking.
On the other hand, a cylinder of propane being used to run a heater in the winter may last for only 30 to 40 hours. This means that preppers will have to add more cylinders to their survival kits during this season. That said, having easy access to fuel for heat is still preferable to going out and foraging for firewood. (Related: The savvy prepper’s guide to surviving a long-term power outage.)
As with any flammable fuel, using propane runs the risk of fire and even explosion. The density of propane when compared to air causes it to sink and accumulate lower to the ground. This means that propane that has leaked out can linger much longer in an area. Not only does this lingering propane make it hard to breathe, it’s also much more susceptible to being ignited.
Fortunately, propane comes with a foul odor reminiscent of rotten eggs. This isn’t actually the smell of the fuel itself, as propane is odorless. Rather, this smell comes from mercaptan, which fuel companies add to propane and natural gas. These companies use mercaptan both for the fact that its pungent odor can be easily detected, and because it is flammable like the fuels it is being added to. However, mercaptan is a toxic substance that has been regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Prolonged exposure to mercaptan can cause conjunctivitis, photophobia, corneal bullae, tearing, eye pain and blurred vision.
Anyone using propane should always do so in an open, or at least well-ventilated, area. This ensures that any propane that has leaked out doesn’t remain in the area for long.
Outside of use, propane cylinders should not be stored near sources of heat. Additionally, propane cylinders must be checked for signs of leaks and general wear when in storage. Cylinders will have dates on them indicating when they must be tested and re-qualified. Preppers should give additional care to any cylinders close to, or beyond, their re-qualification dates.
If there is a leak and propane begins to accumulate, then it’s imperative to leave the area as soon as possible. However, before leaving, it’s also important to shut off any valves and plumbing from the cylinder to help contain the leak.
When handled safely, propane is a great addition to any prepper’s short-term survival kit. With it, preppers can spend less time foraging for fuel for cooking and heating during times of crisis, minimizing their risk of exposure and giving them more time to take care of other matters. While there are a few risks that must be taken into consideration, these can be easily handled, and the benefits of having fuel outweigh them.