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What to do if you smell natural gas

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This morning, a five story building in East Harlem, New York exploded and burned, leaving at least two dead, 18 injured, and a number of people unaccounted for. More than 250 fire fighters were on the scene. Reports say someone had called in to say they could smell gas. A truck was dispatched and on its way, too late for those affected.

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What should you do if you smell natural gas? Because it has no smell, suppliers add odor using a chemical called ethyl mercaptan, making it smell like rotten eggs. If the smell is faint and localized, it is probably a pilot light on a stove, furnace, fireplace, clothes dryer or water heater that you can safely re-light. However, if the smell is strong, evacuate the area immediately. Do not make any calls from inside the building. Do not light a match, lighter or candle. Do not turn on any electrical equipment, and do not try to find the leak. A spark from any one of these could cause an explosion. Simply leave and leave doors and windows open if possible to allow gas to escape.

Once you are away from the building, either outside or at a neighboring building, call the police first, then your local gas company. They will have professionals available to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you do not know your gas company’s phone number, ask the police to call the gas company.

You can also make your home safer by not storing items in and around gas appliances, especially anything that is combustible or flammable. Do not paint or use solvents near pilot lights as they can ignite fumes. Prevention could save you and your neighbors from an explosion, injury, and death.

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Source: CNN, Delta Natural Gas, Fire 9 Prevention

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