Main Content


Responding to Gas Emergencies

The following article appeared in this column a few years back, in reference to responding to gas leaks, and will serve as a refresher.

Responding to a reported odor of gas or a possible gas leak can result in either a minor problem, or a much more hazardous condition, depending on the situation. It may be a pilot light that has gone out on a gas appliance, or a major catastrophic leak resulted in an explosion, causing a fire as witnessed recently in news articles. Having an SOG covering response to gas emergencies will provide you with initial operating procedures that can be modified as the situation warrants.

As always, the first priority is the safety of responders and the public when responding to a gas emergency.

1. Personnel responding to a natural gas emergency should be dressed in full
protective clothing and SCBA at all times.
2. If a gas leak is detected, request the local gas company to respond.
3. Evacuate the affected area by at least 150-feet, increase area as may be deemed necessary.
4. Deny access to the area.
5. Operate upwind whenever possible.
6. Locate a water supply in the event of fire or explosion.
7. Remove any possible sources of ignition.
8. Whenever a gas meter is shut off, it should never be turned back on by anyone other than the gas company. Restoration of gas service should be done by gas company personnel only.

In addition, the following may also be included in your SOG:

1. Spot the apparatus a safe distance from the address of the leak. The first arriving company may enter the block area of the leak and other responding apparatus shall stage one block or a safe distance and preferably upwind of the leak and keep vehicles, spectators and/or occupants away.
2. Request traffic control by a police agency or fire police, if needed.
3. Consider evacuation of the structure and other exposures.
4. Try to determine if there is a gas leak and the area of involvement with Combustible Gas Meters.
5. If a gas leak is detected, notify the Gas Company and stand-by until arrival.
6. Evacuate any endangered occupants in the building, as well as the immediate area.
7. Ventilate structure by opening doors and windows from outside.
8. If using electric or gasoline fans, make sure that they are explosion-proof type and keep generators clear of the area.
9. Do not ring doorbells and do not operate electric switches inside the building.
9. Natural gas is lighter than air, so always check upper levels above the leak site and place apparatus accordingly.
11. Propane is heavier than air and will gravitate to lower levels and should be checked.
12. Shut off gas supply at the meter or propane tank when possible.
13. Shut off electric power to the building to prevent appliances (refrigerator, oil burner, etc.) from coming on.
14. Suppress or remove all sources of ignition in the immediate area whenever possible.
15. Do not attempt to shut down main line gas valves; this should be done by trained gas company personnel.
16. Allow occupants back into the structure only after levels have been reduced to 0% and the gas company concurs.

The above provides some initial suggestions as to what should be done upon response and what additional actions may also be taken into consideration.

As mentioned previously, gas leaks can be very minor, or they can turn into a disaster in a matter of seconds. There are many variables that contribute to the emergency, such as the source of the leak, what is the location of the leak a building or in the street, how long has the gas been leaking prior to notification, and the potential ignition sources in the immediate area.

Gas emergencies pose many dangers to responding personnel and members should be constantly aware of those hazards and maintain necessary precautions to protect themselves from possible injury and death, should a fire or explosion occur.

Till next time, Stay Safe and God Bless!

avatar image
Henry CampbellSenior Correspondent

No information from the author.