Do you know what to do when there's a gas leak?

Posted by on Tuesday, January 26th, 2016 at 4:47pm.

Do you know what natural gas smells like?  If you think you smell it, do you know how to shut it off?

This week, the Okotoks Fire Department is currently conducting a campaign to educate home owners on the maintenance of gas appliances and prevention of leaks.

Ken Thevenot, the chief of the department for the Town of Okotoks, says that appliances in the home that use natural gas are the primary culprits when it comes to residential gas leaks.

The largest appliances are usually the furnace or boiler and the hot water tank.  Both require regular servicing to work efficiently and for the prevention of gas leaks.

Natural gas actually has no smell.  Gas producers add a minute amount of mercaptan, a naturally-occurring chemical which gives off that rotten egg type odour. This unpleasant but effective smell has saved millions of lives since being introduced.  ***

Gas appliances are also the cause of carbon monoxide which is odourless and deadly. It’s virtually undetectable unless the homeowner has installed a carbon monoxide detector. 

Carbon monoxide is produced when there is incomplete combustion within the appliance, usually because they’re dirty or blocked in some way.

Natural gas is actually odourless but trace amounts of the chemical mercaptan is added to give the gas a rotten egg or sulphur odour to give it a smell for resident to know if there's a leak in their home.  You’ll be able to smell it and you may even hear a hissing or whistling noise as the gas is escaping.

Officials with the fire department say that if you believe you have a gas leak in your home, don’t try to fix the leak yourself but exit the premises and wait outside, well away from the residence or building.  Take everyone in the residence with you, including pets, and leave the windows and doors open if possible.  Make sure you have a mobile phone to call 911 or visit a neighbour to use a land line.  And most importantly, remain calm.

In the presence of a gas leak, don’t do anything or use anything that could cause even a minor spark.  That includes:

  • Phones or radios
  • Appliances or lights
  • Smoking, lighters, matches or candles
  • Vehicles or other motors
  • If a fire begins as a result of a gas leak, don’t try to extinguish it.

The experts have gas monitors and breathing equipment as a precaution.  If the natural gas provider needs to be contacted, the first responders will take care of that.

If you smell gas out of doors and suspect a ruptured gas line in the area, don’t assume that someone else has called 911. 

****Mercaptan is an organic compound, also found in the human body and is produced during digestion.   The odour is often evident after easting asparagus when large amounts are present in human urine.  There is, however, a genetic mutation which prevents a small percentage of humans from being to smell this after eating asparagus.  If you don’t notice the distinctive odour after eating asparagus, you may be in this population and therefore, you will not be able to smell natural gas either.

Leave a Comment