jeff8A natural gas explosion can be devastating. A single gas leak has leveled city blocks. Recently, a house in the King’s Grant community exploded because of a gas leak, badly injuring the homeowner. “Causes of such instances cannot always be detected,” said Fayetteville Fire Marshall Michael Martin. “Natural gas is a safe, reliable and affordable energy choice, but it should be handled properly and with care,” according to Piedmont Natural Gas. The company says it’s important to be educated about the properties of natural gas and of the potential hazards if natural gas is released through damaged or leaking pipelines.

Carbon monoxide gas is deadly when inhaled. CO monitors are almost as common as smoke alarms in homes. But, rarely do we hear about alarms that protect against combustible gases. Natural gas and propane gas have pungent odors. The best detector, Martin says, is your nose. “If you smell gas, get out right away.” Natural gas is not toxic to humans but it will displace oxygen. This means that a natural gas leak in a confined space could significantly reduce the amount of oxygen in the air and create a dangerous environment. Explosions or fires from leaking propane or methane gas can be prevented. Several companies manufacture home monitors. Safe Home ™ natural gas alarms can be purchased at home improvement stores and online. For homes that use natural gas for heating and cooking, the company recommends mounting monitors above appliances within six inches of the ceiling or on the ceiling 12 inches from a wall. That’s because natural gas is lighter than air and rises. Propane is heavier than air so propane alarms should be mounted 4 to 20 inches off the floor near appliances. Combustible gas alarms sound when the concentration of gas is less than 25 percent of the lower explosive limit. Safety Siren Pro 3 gas alarms plug directly into outlets. Safe-T-Alert, in 120VAC and 230VAC models, have a line cord for correct placement without a nearby outlet.

Piedmont Natural Gas recommends the following when someone smells natural gas: After leaving the area, call 911 and Piedmont Natural Gas at 1-800-752-7504 from a neighbor’s house or from a location far from the smell of the gas. Do not use anything electrical that may create a spark; this includes cell phones. Do not operate any light switches or strike a match or cigarette lighter. Do not attempt to locate and stop a leak. Do not return to the area until the fire department has declared it safe.

Gas fired appliances, including fireplace gas logs, have pilot lights. “They should have blue flames that are yellow near the tip,” Fire Marshall Martin said. If the pilot light in your gas appliance or heater shows a lot of yellow, orange, red, purple or green color, this indicates inefficient combustion and the presence of potentially hazardous chemicals. A yellow or orange pilot light will produce carbon monoxide — an odorless, colorless gas that can fill your home and cause carbon monoxide poisoning. 

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