Monday, February 25, 2013

Home Safety: What to Do When There is a Gas Leak

By Homefix Corporation

Your stove, water heater, or heating system may be powered by it, but  in the event of a leak, natural gas can be a harmful, or even deadly hazard.

Why is natural gas dangerous?

Natural gas is a hazard because of the very thing that makes it a great fuel source: it is extremely combustible. This means that a spark, whether from the stove, or even static electricity, can trigger an explosion. Furthermore, a gas leak that goes unnoticed can cause suffocation as, when inhaled, it prevents the lungs from using oxygen.

While gas can be useful as a fuel source, it can be dangerous as well.
(freedigitalphotos.net)

A natural gas leak can occur if the pipelines carrying it are damaged, or if gas appliances are working improperly.

How do you know if there is a gas leak?

An odor that is described as "sulfuric" or similar to rotten eggs is added to natural gas, because the fumes naturally do not have a smell. This distinct odor is the first indication that there is a problem.

Carbon monoxide detectors are a common household alarm, and some are even integrated into smoke alarms. While both CO2 and smoke detectors are important items for household safety, it is important to note that a carbon monoxide alarm will not detect natural gas. When burned, natural gas emits carbon monoxide as a byproduct. While there is certainly a need for a CO2 detector in your home, a natural gas detector serves a completely different, yet equally important purpose. If you have a natural gas leak, it is possible that your carbon monoxide detector will not alert you to that particular danger, until it is too late.

What should I do if I suspect a natural gas leak?

Hopefully you are not reading this article because you suspect a natural gas leak right now. If that is the case, get out of the house!

DO NOT:

  • Use or touch any electronic devices (cell phone, computer, television, etc)
  • Turn any lights or fans on or off
  • Unplug anything, or touch any light switches
Basically, do not touch or disturb anything. Get out of the house, and call 911, your local emergency department, or your local gas and electric supplier.

You may also be interested in:
After the Storm: Generator Safety (Homefix Weekly Review)
Energy Audit Saves the Day (Sustainable Living)

Homefix Corporation is an exterior home remodeler serving MD, DC, and VA. If you believe you have an emergency, please contact the appropriate authorities for your area.