Friday, November 12, 2010

Smell gas? Leave the area, call for help

Remember that horrible gas pipeline explosion that happened back in September in California? Eight people were killed and 50 homes destroyed. It really opened the eyes of a lot of people around the country and made them wonder about their own risk.

Pipelines are used in communities all over the United States, whether for gas, gasoline or other energy products. Leaks or broken pipes can cause serious harm. Luckily, in most cases involving gas, the distinctive rotten egg-like smell can tip you off when there is a problem.

Here are a few tips on what to do if you smell gas:
• If you smell gas inside, don’t operate electrical equipment or turn light switches on or off, as it can cause a spark. Evacuate the area and call your utility department or gas company.
• If you smell gas outside, make sure the area is evacuated, then call for help. Don’t try to find the source of the smell — leave that up to the professionals. Never use a match or start your car if you smell gas, as those actions could cause a dangerous explosion.

If you own or rent a home, it’s a good idea to know where the underground pipes are located under your property. Never dig in your yard without locating your pipes first. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has an interactive map to allow you to locate areas with underground pipelines. The map is meant as a reference only, so before beginning any digging, call 811. Operators will be able to connect you to local officials who can tell you if it is safe. If a gas line is damaged when digging outside, call your utility company immediately, and don’t attempt to repair the pipe yourself.

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