What you need to do if you smell natural gas

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The tragic and fatal fire and explosion at an apartment complex in Silver Spring offers a reminder about the hazards of natural gas.

Natural gas is odorless by nature, but utility companies add a rotten egg odor so residents and customers can notice if there is a leak in or around their properties.

The most important thing to do if you ever smell natural gas is to get away from the source, outside and far away. Then you need to call 911 and/or your gas company to report a leak.

It is important to let others in the area know about the leak and make sure no one does anything that could possibly ignite the vapors, like lighting a match, using an electronic device or even starting a vehicle.

An explosion isn’t the only potential hazard. A natural gas leak in your home could squeeze oxygen out of your home and lead to asphyxia, much like what happens in a carbon monoxide leak. Often times, you can get a carbon monoxide leak from natural gas appliances when they are not properly installed.

Unlike natural gas, carbon monoxide is odorless and almost impossible to notice without a detector.

Common sources for leaks inside a home are any appliances that use combustible fuels, such as stoves, water heaters and laundry dryers.

Leaks can also happen outside because of a variety of reasons, usually having to do with utility piping.

Some potential signs there might be a gas leak outside, according to Washington Gas, including hearing a hissing or a blowing noise, a dry spot in a moist field or dead or dying vegetation on or near a pipeline.

Some more obvious signs would be dirt or water being thrown in the air, standing water bubbling or even a fire coming from the ground.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue offers a home safety evaluation so you can check for any potential safety hazards in or around your home. You could also ask any questions about potential issues like gas leaks.  If a Montgomery County resident wants to arrange for a home safety evaluation, call 311.

Officials ask that if you notice any sign of a potential gas leak to call 911 and your gas company.

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