Be safe, Colorado!
Natural gas is a common, cost-effective fuel that most residential heaters use to keep their occupants, and their pipes warm and cozy in the winter months. If you're lucky, you might even have a gas range and a gas line going to your grill, too. Yet, as nice as all of these things are, having these systems in your home or apartment isn't without risk. Gas leaks are a common occurrence, especially in older structures, and if they're ignored they can be deadly. Luckily, by taking the proper precautions, you can keep you, your family, your neighbors, and your pets safe.
If you detect a sulfur or rotten-egg-like-smell, it could be gas, and here's what you need to do. If it's faint, but you can smell it, crack a few windows and leave the premises. Don't use the garage, start your car, or use any electronic device that could cause a spark, and obviously, don't light a match or a lighter. Once you're a safe distance from your home, call your utility providers, which for us Denverites is Xcel energy (1-800-895-2999), and they'll usually send somebody out with special measurement tools to detect the exact source of the leak. Don't re-enter your residence until they tell you it's safe to do so.
If the smell is extremely pungent, you could have a bigger leak on your hands (you might even hear a hissing sound). Leave the premises immediately, along with family or pets, and do not use any electronic device including your garage door, car (which has electrical components), or anything else that could cause a spark. Again, it's obvious you shouldn't smoke, use a lighter, or strike a match. Then, when you're a safe distance away from the house, call 911.
The fire department will come, assess the risk, and help get your neighbors (apartment usually) stay out of harm's way.
So what causes gas leaks? Often times, heaters and water heaters are the culprits, in which case the utility company will help you shut off the gas to these systems and a plumber/heating specialist can come make the repair. When working properly, these systems are safe, efficient, and make modern life possible, but they do require maintenance and regular checkups. In fact, you should probably call a plumber/HVAC specialist every once in a while to check up on your furnace and water heater.
Otherwise, stay safe Colorado, and if you smell gas, you know what to do!
What are your thoughts? Does anyone have some tips to add? If so, let us know in the comments below!