ST. PAUL, Minn. – The State Emergency Operations Center public hotline fielded more than 80 calls from Minnesotans concerned about propane by midafternoon on its first day of operation.
Minnesotans calling expressed concerns about the price and availability of propane from their suppliers. Some callers said they were unable to afford minimum orders and were seeking help finding resources. Operators were able to help callers connect with resources within their community including not-for-profit organizations if they didn’t qualify for low income heating assistance.
The hotline was established Thursday morning for Minnesotans with propane issues or questions. The Hotline will operate Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Minnesota residents with questions about the current propane situation or who are in danger of running out of heating fuel can call 651-297-1304 in the metro area or 1-800-657-3504 in greater Minnesota. Relay users should use their preferred telecommunications relay service.
The hotline is staffed with experts from the Minnesota Department of Commerce who can provide information about Energy Assistance Programs, connect callers with resources in their home county, and provide other information.
The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) continues to be partially activated so that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Homeland Security and Emergency Management division (HSEM) can coordinate efforts of state agencies. HSEM is in contact with state, local and voluntary partners to coordinate any potential resource requests. There have been no such requests at this time.
Governor Dayton declared a State of Peacetime Emergency in Minnesota on Monday in response to the persistent cold weather and the increased risk that households may run out of heating fuel, a situation that would pose an immediate threat to public safety.
What consumers and Minnesota residents can do
People who use propane to heat their homes can take several steps at this time.
- Conserve energy as much as possible. Turn down thermostats and be aware of your propane use.
- Check in on your family members, neighbors and friends. Call 9-1-1 only in a crisis
- State Hotline and Department of Commerce online resources
- 1-800-657-3504 in greater Minnesota
- 651-297-1304 in the metro area
- Department of Commerce Energy Assistance section
Use Alternative Heat Sources Safely
People often turn to alternative heat sources to stay warm when the temperature plummets. The State Fire Marshal (SFM) reminds residents to use caution when using alternative heating sources.
Types of alternative heating sources often seen include:
- Portable electric heaters
- Liquid-fueled heaters:
- Gas-burning heaters – Propane is most common
- Solid-fuel heating:
Any heating appliance with an open flame needs to be vented to the outside because the combustion process of burning fuel uses oxygen and also gives off carbon monoxide — a deadly combination inside of a home.
Other tips when using alternative heat sources:
- Keep anything flammable -- including pets and people -- at least three feet away from heating equipment.
- Make sure portable space heaters have an automatic shut-off.
- Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Space heaters need constant watching. Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
- Make sure all cords on electric heaters are in good shape and checked periodically for any frays or breaks in the insulation surrounding the wires.
- Check the cord and outlet occasionally for overheating; if it feels hot, discontinue use.
- Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.
Use a heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up to date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards.
Consumers who need financial assistance to pay heating bills may find help through the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
The Department of Commerce administers LIHEAP in Minnesota, which helps low income households, especially those with seniors, children, veterans and people with disabilities with their heating bill.
Money is still available for households that have not already applied.
Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced LIHEAP Crisis payments would increase from $500 to $1,000 for applicants heating their homes with propane and heating oil. The crisis payments are currently available.
Qualifying families must apply for assistance at the local service provider in their area; Minnesota has 32 local service providers. A list of local service providers and information on applying for the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program is available by visiting the Energy Assistance section of the Division of Energy Resources website or by calling 1-800-657-3710.