With heating season in full swing, Ameren Illinois and the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association (IFCA) are reminding residents of important natural gas safety measures.
Ameren Illinois distributes natural gas to more than 800,000 customers through a vast network of 18,300 miles of underground transmission and distribution pipeline. The company is investing heavily in modernizing its natural gas infrastructure. But for a variety of reasons, leaks can sometimes occur.
The most common sources of natural gas leaks are old brass stove connectors and faulty piping connections. Incidental contact made with underground pipelines during outdoor excavating projects can also cause natural gas to leak and migrate into a home or business. Natural gas is odorless and colorless in its purest form, but Ameren Illinois adds a chemical – mercaptan – to give it a distinctive scent of rotten eggs.
If you ever smell natural gas or notice any of the other warning signs, such as bubbling water, blowing dirt or a hissing or roaring sound, evacuate the area immediately. Do not flip any light switches, vent the windows or use electronics on your way out of the structure. Doing so could create a spark and ignite the natural gas if it’s in the explosive range.
Once you are in a safe area, call Ameren Illinois at 1-800-755-5000. The average response time for a natural gas crew is 22 minutes.
“Even if you aren’t certain of the smell or its origin, we always prefer that you err on the side of caution and alert us,” said Eric Kozak, Vice President Natural Gas Operations, Ameren Illinois. “Our workers will respond around the clock to ensure everything is safe. We also want everyone to know that there is no cost to a customer for calling out a crew to investigate a suspected natural gas leak.”
Upon arriving at the scene, Ameren Illinois will perform a visual inspection for any outward signs of a leak, as well as inspect the piping, appliances and outside perimeter of the home and the customer’s meter. If a leak is confirmed, the crew will work to isolate the problem and shut off the natural gas as quickly and as safely as possible.
The local Fire Department may be dispatched as well, especially in scenarios where evacuation is necessary. Ameren Illinois works closely with first responders on natural gas protocols, conducting approximately 100 face-to-face presentations with emergency personnel every year.
“Far too often, we respond to natural gas leaks scenarios in which the smell has been present for at least a few days,” said Greg Earle, Chief of the Centralia Fire Protection District and President of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association. “Ignoring a potential leak creates an incredibly dangerous situation. If you smell natural gas, get out immediately and call. It’s a safety message we can’t stress enough.”
Ameren Illinois and the IFCA offer the following tips for natural gas safety around the home:
Ensure natural gas appliances are inspected regularly.
Keep the natural gas fireplace clean and free from any obstructions.
Avoid storing paint stripper, salt bags or other flammable products near natural gas appliances.
Never use an oven or stove range for heating purposes.
Always call 8-1-1 (J.U.L.I.E) before conducting any projects that require digging.