Here are some important notes from CERT team training and from the Local Gas Utility, about Natural Gas and emergencies.

Do Not turn off your gas just because there is some emergency, natural or otherwise. Typically gas lines are pretty tough, they don’t just break easily. Most Localities have laws stating that if a gas meter is turned off, it cannot be turned back on except by qualified personnel. It was reported that during the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, 150,000 gas meters were turned off, only 2% of those actually needed to be turned off. This created a huge backlog of work for service personnel to them turned back on. Imagine if this were in winter, and you had to wait days or weeks to get your gas service on again. The following is a list recommending when you should turn off your meter.

  • Your house has been severely damaged structurally
  • You are near a fire
  • The gas company or city officials request it
  • You smell natural gas
  • If you hear hissing from a gas line or device

As a preventative measure you should make sure to strap your gas water heater so it won’t tip over in an earthquake.

You don’t really need some special tool to turn off the gas valve. It’s just a rectangular shaped knob so anything that will fit it will work. I know there are special tools made, and some are billed as non-sparking as well. If I’m worrying about a spark setting off a fire while turning off my gas valve, I’m not going near it. One other thing, how to tell if the valve is on or off. If the valve is parallel with the piping it is on, if perpendicular it is off. Just a quarter turn either way does it.

Natural Gas is not as dangerous as many people believe, and it is quite a good fuel. Here are a few interesting facts.

  • It is non-toxic, it has no substances that are toxic when inhaled
  • It is lighter than air. Unlike other gases, it quickly rises and dissipates, lessening any danger.
  • It is only combustive within a narrow range of 5-15% mixture in air
  • It is odorless, a pungent odor is added so that even the smallest amount of leakage is detected
  • Your gas company may have an odor card, (like perfume card) so you know the smell. Ask them.
  • It is clean burning, almost no pollutants result from burning it

Now you know a little more about Natural Gas and how to deal with it in a disaster. It’s a great fuel, useful, safe, clean and abundant.

Information obtained from CERT Training Manual, and Questar Gas

Until next time, this is Perry Peacock, “Simplifying Survival”


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