Natural Gas Safety Tips For Today’s Blizzard

A kerosene space heater can be a source of carbon monoxide.

With today’s blizzard expected to leave behind large accumulations of snowfall across the region, National Grid is reminding its customers of ways to stay safe. These are important safety tips on what to do if a natural gas leak is suspected and how to avoid exposure to potentially deadly carbon monoxide.  

As customers dig out their homes and businesses, the deep snowpack and additional snow left by snow removal equipment may clog vents to furnaces and other appliances. In addition, many roofs may become laden with ice and snow overhanging natural gas equipment. Both conditions can lead to trouble.

Report Natural Gas Leaks

Like any fuel, natural gas is safe when used properly. In the interest of customer and public safety, National Grid crews continually test, repair and improve the underground system that delivers natural gas, but the possibility does exist for a gas leak in or near your home. Natural gas is odorless, but National Grid adds a harmless substance called mercaptan.  Mercaptan has a strong odor similar to that of rotten eggs.

Any natural gas leak is a potentially hazardous situation. If you suspect a natural gas leak, National Grid recommends that you evacuate the premises for your own safety while taking the following immediate actions:

  • Do NOT touch any electrical or light switches, appliances, thermostats, doorbells, phones or anything that could cause a spark.
  • Do NOT turn any electrical equipment on or off.
  • Do NOT pull any plugs from outlets.
  • Do NOT smoke or light matches.
  • Do not return to your home until National Grid tells you it is safe.
  • Whether you are inside or outside, if you smell gas, act fast.

Smell Gas Act Fast

  • Get Out – All occupants should leave the house immediately. Do not use the telephone or light switches for any reason.
  • Call – After leaving the house and reaching a safe environment, call 911 or the National Grid 24-hour gas emergency number for Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island at 718-643-4050, on Long Island and the Rockaway Peninsula call 800-490-0045 or call 911.
  • Stay Out – Do not return to your home until National Grid tells you it is safe.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Safety & Prevention

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas that can be deadly if left undetected. It is the byproduct of the incomplete burning of fuels such as natural gas, butane, propane, wood, coal, heating oil, kerosene and gasoline. Common sources of carbon monoxide include malfunctioning forced-air furnaces, kerosene space heaters, natural gas ranges, wood stoves, fireplaces and motor vehicle engines. During the heating season when windows and doors are tightly shut, fresh air is sealed out, creating the potential for carbon monoxide to build up over time. National Grid recommends that customers install a government-approved home carbon monoxide detector on every floor.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to those of the flu. Depending on the amount of carbon monoxide in the air and length of exposure, symptoms may include headaches, weakness, confusion, chest tightness, skin redness, dizziness, nausea, sleepiness, fluttering of the heart or loss of muscle control

If you suspect carbon monoxide is present in your home, go outside immediately and call 911. Do not return to your home until the carbon monoxide source is found.

The following are some carbon monoxide prevention tips:

  • Arrange for an annual check of your heating system by a licensed professional heating contractor.
  • Check chimneys or flues for debris, bird nests or other blockages, and have them cleaned periodically.
  • Be sure space heaters and wood stoves are in good condition, have adequate ventilation and are used in strict compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • NEVER use a gas range for heating or burn coal or charcoal in an enclosed space.
  • Open windows do not provide sufficient ventilation to safely operate a generator indoors. If you use a back-up generator to supply power during outages, be sure to operate it outdoors.
  • An accumulation of snow could block vents for furnaces, hot water heaters and other appliances causing CO to back up into a building and result in carbon monoxide poisoning for those inside. Be sure vents are clear of snow and ice so they can operate properly.

National Grid will respond immediately to all carbon-monoxide related calls for all natural gas customers within its service area—even if you purchase natural gas from an alternative gas supplier or marketer. However, always call 911 first. Click here for New York City and Long Island natural gas safety.


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