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A gas leak at home can be frightening and have grave consequences if you don’t deal with it quickly. It’s important to know what to do in the event of a leak.
If you can smell gas, call the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999. You may want to save this number in your phone as ‘Gas Emergency’ or something similar.
There are two common kinds of gas that are likely to affect you and your home: everyday ‘natural gas’ (used in cookers, plumbing and so on), and carbon monoxide.
If you’ve got a natural gas leak, your first line of defence is your nose. Natural gas is actually odourless, but an additive called mercaptan gives it a sulphuric, rotten egg smell that’s designed especially to warn you about its presence.
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of improperly-burned fuel, including gas, coal, wood and oil. It’s very poisonous and can kill. Worse still, it’s completely odourless, tasteless and invisible. It can sometimes be emitted by a faulty home appliance, like a fireplace or stove, or a blocked chimney or flue.
The only way to detect carbon monoxide is with a monitor, placed somewhere near the appliance. It will automatically chime in case of elevated levels, and should be tested regularly – perhaps while testing your smoke detector.
Step 1 – Ask yourself if your home has gas – It’s a reasonable question. If your home doesn’t have gas, and you can smell it, you know it’s coming from elsewhere. If it’s strong enough to reach your home, it’s likely to be a significant leak so leave as soon as you can
Step 2 – Try to identify the source of the leak – the smell will be strongest close to the source so this can help pinpoint where it’s coming from. A leak in the kitchen, for instance, may simply be coming from an incorrectly-turned off gas ring on the hob. If the smell is coming from a cellar or basement, leave your home right away. These are often unventilated spaces, and it’s likely the leak is coming from something like a broken pipe
Step 3 – Think safety – a build-up of unburnt gas can ignite with devastating consequences. If you can smell gas, do not light a cigarette, strike a match or flick any electrical switches
Step 4 – Ventilate to disperse gas – open doors and windows to help gas dissipate. This not only removes the smell, but also reduces the risk of any accidental ignitions
Step 5 – Turn off gas at the meter – locate the gas meter and turn off the gas here if possible. It’s likely a physical valve needs rotating like a tap. On some older homes, this may have become stuck with time (especially if it’s outside), so don’t try to force it
Step 6 – Call for help – the National Gas Emergency Service helps people dealing with gas leaks, free of charge. Call 0800 111 999 and an expert will come to you within an hour, and will work to make the source of the leak safe. If the source of the leak is a faulty boiler or appliance, this may be condemned and permanently disconnected. Do not attempt to reconnect it. Any subsequent repair or replacement work will need to be conducted by a Gas Safe-registered engineer.
Step 7 – Tell your neighbours – in the case of a serious leak and you’ve evacuated, warn your neighbours. This is especially important if you live in a flat, maisonette, terrace or semi-detached home, as their property may also be affected.
Step 8 – Be patient – once evacuated, nobody should be allowed back inside before the leak has been brought under control. Make sure pets can’t get back inside (through a cat flap, for instance) while the leak’s ongoing.