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What to do if a gas leak is suspected

Q:  Fortunately I do not live in any of the towns that were recently impacted by the devastating gas explosions. I am concerned for myself and several older relatives who live nearby if this situation was ever to occur again. Are there steps people should take if they believe there is a gas leak in their home?

A:   The widespread gas explosions that took place in 3 of our communities was indeed a tragedy. The magnitude of the gas leaks was also an unusual occurrence. It was a surprise to learn while doing research on this subject that single incident explosions are a fairly common occurrence. In most cases the gas leak was directly caused by a preventable problem within the structure of the residence or business.

Anyone who has a gas appliance that is 15-20 years old should have them inspected for potential leaks and malfunctions. Residents should always double check to make sure gas stoves, ovens and fireplaces are turned off completely when not in use and pilot lights are functioning properly. Pay attention to dead vegetation near a pipeline or if bushes around the base of the home have turned brown in a short time frame, this could very well be an indication of a gas leak. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on every level of the home, this could be your earliest warning during the night while sleeping. Know where the main gas service shut off valve is located and how to turn it off in an emergency.

Natural/domestic gas actually does not have an odor but for safety sake energy providers add mercaptan which produces a rotten egg smell to enable someone to detect a possible gas leak…trust your nose. If you have reason to believe there is a gas leak in your home there are action steps to take. The morning news Today show investigative correspondent, Jeff Rossen, featured this topic on a segment within a few days of the explosions in our area. He advised under no conditions should any electrical switches be turned on/off which could result in producing a spark. If a hissing sound is detected this is extremely dangerous and it is imperative to leave the premises immediately, leave the door open when you depart. Do not attempt to start your car if it is in the garage or close to the house.

Move a minimum of 350 feet from the structure and use a cell phone to call 911. Call neighbors if they are in a close proximity and alert them to the problem. Do not attempt to enter the home until it has been checked by professionals and deemed safe.

 

Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to ageinfo@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.