Natural Gas Safety

Natural Gas Safety

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Whether you are at home, at work, in a public place, or on the UNH campus, it’s likely you are often in areas served by natural gas pipelines. Across the U.S., more than 2.2 million miles of pipelines and mains deliver natural gas for use by residential, commercial and industrial customers. 

Like all forms of energy, natural gas must be handled properly. Despite an excellent safety record, a gas leak caused by damage to a pipeline may pose a hazard and has the potential to ignite.

On the Durham campus there are two underground gas piping networks beneath the roads and grounds of campus. EcoLine™, UNH’s landfill gas-to-energy project, delivers processed landfill gas to campus for use in our two gas turbines via a 12” underground transmission pipeline beginning 12.6 miles away at the Waste Management Turnkey Landfill in Rochester and terminating at the central heating plant on Library Way. There is also a distribution network of smaller diameter underground natural gas lines on campus delivering service to directly to dorms, dining halls, and academic and other buildings. 

Be Aware

Whether you are being served by a natural gas pipeline or not, it is important for you to be familiar with the characteristics of natural gas and be prepared to react quickly and properly to ensure your safety and the safety of others in the event of a gas leak. 

What Is a Gas Leak? What Do I Do if I Have One?

Since natural gas is odorless and colorless in its natural form, a distinctive odorant called mercaptan is added to help you detect a gas leak. Mercaptan makes the gas smell like sulfur or rotten eggs.

If You Suspect a Leak:

  • MOVE to a safe environment
  • CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY
  • DO NOT smoke or operate electrical switches or appliances. These items may produce a spark that might ignite the gas and cause an explosion.
  • DO NOT operate your cell phone until you have moved to a safe environment.
  • DO NOT assume someone else will report the condition.
  • Provide the 911 operator with the exact location, including cross streets.
  • Let the 911 operator know if you observe any construction or digging activities that are going on in the area.

Indoor Gas Leaks

If you smell a faint gas odor near an appliance:

  • Check all pilot lights. If you find a pilot light extinguished, open windows and doors to vent the area and then wait 15 minutes before relighting the pilot light. 
  • Call 911 to report the situation if the smell doesn’t go away. 

If you smell gas inside your home, dorm or business and the smell is a strong persistent natural gas odor, or you hear a hissing or leaking sound.

You should:

  • Leave the building immediately, taking everyone with you (including pets), and leave all doors and windows open behind you. 
  • Call your local gas company from a home or business nearby. 

You Should Not:

  • Use telephones, cell phones, computers, appliances, elevators or garage door openers.
  • Touch electrical outlets, switches or doorbells.
  • Smoke or use a lighter, match or other open flame.
  • Position or operate vehicles or powered equipment where leaking gas may be present.
  • Re-enter the home to open doors and windows.

Outdoor Gas Leaks

You may be observing signs of an outdoor gas leak if:

  • You hit a gas line while digging
  • Smell a strong gas odor in the air
  • You see or hear any unusual occurrences such as a high-pitched whistle or hissing sound, blowing dust, dead vegetation in a normally green area, continuous bubbles in an underwater area or ground fires

You Should:

  • Evacuate.  Keep unauthorized people from getting near the site.
  • Call 911 immediately. 
  • Call 911 if you believe the situation is dangerous.
  • Abandon your car, backhoe, or other equipment until the scene is deemed safe by the authorities.

You Should Not:

  • Use anything that could generate a spark or flame.
  • Start up or shut down motor vehicles or electrical equipment.
  • Use a telephone or cell phone in or near the area where the signs of the leak were observed.
  • Attempt to repair or backfill any damaged or potentially damaged pipeline.
  •  

Know What You’re Digging Into

The greatest risk to underground pipelines is accidental damage during excavation or digging incidents. Excavation damage accounts for almost 60 percent of all reported pipeline incidents. Even minor damage such as a scrape, gouge, dent, or crease to a pipeline or its coating can cause a leak or failure.

Since the pipelines are underground, line markers are sometimes used to indicate their approximate location. The markers display the pipeline operator and the number to call in case of emergency.

To protect pipelines and other underground facilities, the law requires that ANYONE digging contact the local Dig Safe center (1-888-DIGSAFE). Whether you are putting up volleyball nets, driving stakes in the ground to support a tent or digging to erect a signpost, every excavation job requires a phone call. The Dig Safe Call Center will contact the gas utility operator of underground facilities in the immediate area so the location of pipelines can be marked prior to excavation.  This service is performed at no cost to you and it is the law.