We hear in the news all too often about a gas explosion in a home or business causing devastating loss to property and even loss of life. An estimated 177 million Americans rely on natural gas in their homes,1 and gas leaks are something every household should take seriously.
If you haven’t already done so, get acquainted with your main gas valve location and identify where the shutoff lever is located in case of an emergency. In addition, familiarize yourself with the signs of a gas leak and proper response.
How to detect a gas leak?
Smell: A natural gas leak is described as smelling like a rotten egg or sulfur. This smell is actually added to the natural gas by utility companies to warn customers of a potential leak.
See: You may suddenly notice a yellowing or brown patch on landscaping outside your home, which may indicate a leak underground.
Physical: You may suddenly feel light-headed, dizzy and/or nauseous, and going outside in fresh air causes the symptoms to subside.
What to do next?
If the odor is strong and overwhelming, evacuate the house immediately at a safe distance and call 911. When a gas leak is present, it can interact with electrical and fire sources. This could cause an explosion, so it’s very important to immediately leave the area if you smell gas and detect something obviously wrong.
If the odor is light and nothing is obviously wrong, the following are some quick things you can do to protect yourself before evacuating:
- With an odor of gas present, it is critical to not use light switches, cell phone, lighters, matches, candles, stoves, or anything with an open flame. A flashlight is a safer lighting option to use.
- Check your gas stove or cooktop to make sure that it was not accidentally left on.
- Open as many doors and windows as possible to allow air to flow through.
- Know in advance the location of your main gas shutoff valve, which stops the flow of gas to the entire house. Shutoff valves vary greatly in design and location on a property depending on the age of your house, the local codes and which part of the country you live in. Turn the gas supply off at the main valve (using a wrench is often necessary). Do not try to turn the gas back on to your home; call the gas company to do that.
Consider a high-tech warning system
To further protect your family and home, consider installing an explosive gas leak detector in your home. Available at do-it-yourself hardware stores, these systems will set off an alarm if combustible gas is detected. You may also wish to contact your local alarm professional to have an explosive gas leak detector tied to the monitored alarm system in your home.
Geannie Brubaker is a Premier Account Specialist with Chubb Personal Risk Services’ Risk Consulting Group.