Fix-It Friday: What To Do If You Smell Natural Gas… Life And Home Saving Safety Tips

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In the news this past week were reports of 2 houses that exploded in New Jersey due to natural gas leaks. Ironically enough, last night I put a pot of stew on the stove to simmer at a very low flame… apparently too low, because the flame blew out for who knows how long. All I know is I began to smell something strange and at first thought I over did it on the garlic cloves. Hold up, I know my food smells, but this is beyond… Oh no, the stove! I immediately shut off the burner and opened all the windows and doors.

Knowing what to do if you smell natural gas is a life and home saver. So for this week’s Fix-it Friday I lay out the safety tips to follow and steps to take if you suspect a gas leak. But first, some Gas Factoids:

  • Natural gas is colorless and odorless. That rotten egg/garlic smell that comes from gas is actually added to it so we know it’s there.
  • Every gas appliance in your home has its own designated gas shutoff valve. Label them! You should know exactly where they are so if you have to shut one down, you’re not panicking.
  • The gas meter has a main shutoff valve that cuts off  gas to the entire house. Label it and keep a wrench near by in the event you must shut it down in an emergency.

Italian coffee maker on stove

Gas Safety Steps:

  • If there’s a FAINT smell of gas and you KNOW where it’s coming from, shut it off from the source. Open doors and windows. Don’t turn on any appliances or lights, definitely don’t light a match, and do not use any phones—a spark from any of these things could ignite the gas. (A battery flashlight is safe to use.) Step out of the space until the smell dissipates.
  • If there’s a FAINT smell of gas and you DON’T KNOW where it’s coming from open doors and windows. Don’t turn on any appliances or lights, definitely don’t light a match, and do not use any phones. (A battery flashlight is safe to use.) Go to your gas main and shut it off. Once the smell dissipates, call the gas company.

How do you know when a valve is in the OFF position? Here’s a rule: if the handle crosses the line/pipe, it’s off – blocking the flow. If it’s parallel with the line/pipe, it’s on – in line with the flow. If the valve is a gate valve with a round handle, remember, leftey loosie, righty tighty.

Gas On_Off

  • If there’s a STRONG smell of gas, just leave the house. Take people and pets with you! Open windows that you pass on the way out and leave the door OPEN behind you. As always, don’t turn on any appliances or lights, definitely don’t light a match, and do not use any phones. (A battery flashlight is safe to use.) Call the utility company from a neighbor’s phone or your cell phone once you’re well away from the house.
  • If you smell gas outside your home or see foliage turning a greyish color near your house – immediately leave the premises. Call the utility company when well away from the house.

With these tips the only gas you’ll have to worry about is the aftermath of your favorite Mexican joint’s Zesty Chili Con Carne Burrito… for which opening doors and windows would be equally life saving.

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.

Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.