Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gas - A Cautionary Tale

Gas piped into homes, offices, hospitals and schools is practically as common as bringing in electricity.  While an ill-placed live wire can hurt or even kill you under the right circumstances, or a short in a wire can cause a spark and potential fire, the potential harm from gas has a much greater reach – it can explode with tremendous power and violence.

Several incidents have happened recently this year that has heightened the public’s concern over gas safety:

On October 12, a home that had experienced “a gas smell for days” exploded, injuring five and destroying four homes.  On November 10th, nearly 100 homes were damaged (33 completely destroyed) and two people were killed with gas caused an extremely violent explosion in an Indianapolis suburb.  On November 23rd, a gas-caused explosion damaged 42 buildings, injured 20 people and surprisingly killed no one.  Tragedy struck again on November 27 when a fire and explosion from a gas heater killed 14 and injured 9 in a workshop in Berlin, Germany.

The incident that heightened the awareness of gas violent nature was the gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California, on September 9, 2010.  The explosion in this Bay-area residential neighborhood killed 8 people and injured 58, some hospitalized for months with severe burns.  Thirty-eight homes were completely destroyed and dozens of others sustained damage.

The San Bruno explosion was certainly a wake-up call, especially for cities, universities and utility companies.  The location of gas pipelines were mapped and distributed to the community.  Emergency plans had to contain elements of awareness and mitigation of any gas pipeline hazards.  Pressure was placed on utility companies to examine gas pipeline infrastructure for signs of decay or weakening, as was suspected in the San Bruno explosion.

Many of us welcomed the new emphasis on gas safety.  Natural gas, though ubiquitous in the United States for heating and cooking, can be quite dangerous so spreading the word on how to prevent gas accidents is great and potentially life-saving.

By following a few basic tips*, you can prepare yourself and those you love to hopefully avoid any run-ins with gas’s explosive side…

·        Use your nose. If you ever detect even a small amount of the odor of natural gas in the air, don’t stay—get away. Then, contact your natural gas provider. If you don’t know that number, dial emergency services, 9-1-1.
·        Have all gas appliances, furnaces, vents, flues, chimneys and gas lines in your home or business inspected every year or two by qualified industry professionals.
·        Keep the areas around all appliances and equipment clean and unblocked to allow for proper air flow.
·        Follow manufacturer instructions for the care and use of gas appliances and equipment.
·        Make sure there is at least one multipurpose fire extinguisher in your home or place of business.
·        Review these natural gas safety tips regularly with ALL family members and coworkers.


·        Don’t ever let small children play with or near natural gas appliances or pipes, even the knobs on the oven or cooktop.
·        Don’t use your stove or oven for anything other than cooking (for instance, to heat your home, under any circumstances.
·        Don’t move or install a gas appliance or change the connector in any way without professional assistance.
·        Don’t use a space heater UNTIL you are sure it has been vented properly. If using a vent-free heater, make sure the automatic cut-off switch is operational.
·        Don’t install a gas appliance yourself, unless you are a qualified contractor. Instead, you should always seek professional assistance.
·        Don’t ever store household chemicals or combustible materials near gas appliances.
·        Above all, don’t forget to learn what to do if you ever smell natural gas in the air: SMELL GAS? ACT FAST!

IT’S BEST TO BE SAFE: If you smell gas RIGHT NOW—don't touch or turn off your computer—leave the area! After you go someplace away from the odor, call your natural gas provider. If you don't know that number, dial emergency services, 9-1-1.

November 27, 2012

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