Natural gas is a colorless and odorless gas that is highly flammable. The biggest hazard that can result from a natural gas leak is an explosion; it also causes those in an exposed area to become sick. Gas companies add an odorant called mercaptan that allows a leak to be easily detected by emitting a strong sulfur, rotten egg scent. It is crucial to know how to react when exposed to natural gas in different environments.
If you are inside and smell a faint natural gas odor:
- Turn off all burners and gas appliances completely.
- Extinguish any ignition sources such as open flames.
- Open all windows and doors to ventilate the area.
- Check pilot lights on gas appliances to see if they are lit.
- If you are unable to determine the source of the gas odor, call your gas company and report the odor.
- Relight extinguished pilot lights only if you know how to do so safely. Otherwise, call an appliance maintenance professional.
If you are inside and smell a strong gas odor:
- Quickly extinguish any ignition sources, such as candles, burners, or embers.
- Evacuate the building immediately, taking all residents with you. Notify others in the area of the possible leak.
- Do not use lights or any electrical equipment that might produce a spark.
- Once safely outdoors and away from the building, call the gas company or 911 with a cell phone or from a neighbor’s phone to report the odor. Do not place the call from inside the building where the strong odor is occurring.
- Do not renter the building unless instructed to do so by emergency personnel.
If you are outside and smell a strong natural gas odor or hear the sound of escaping gas:
- Leave the area where the smell or sound is occurring.
- Do not do anything that could create a spark, such as lighting embers, fires, or fireworks.
- Once away from the area of smell, contact the gas company or emergency responders using a cell phone or neighbor’s phone.
KPA offers toolbox talks that educate employees on natural gas and the associated hazards. Other toolbox topics include: how to properly handle various acids and bases, carbon monoxide poisoning, and preventive safety measures.