Because natural gas is distributed through underground pipelines, delivery disruptions occur less often than electrical outages. Severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes can expose and break pipes, however. When disruptions do occur, it can take weeks or even months to restore. Homeowners should take care in identifying and reporting any problems, as they may pose substantial risk to public health and safety. A break in a natural gas pipeline can lead to fires and/or explosions. Many of the following guidelines would apply if you detect a propane tank leak, as well. Contact your propane retailer or local fire department in an emergency.
- Detect a problem—A natural gas leak can be detected by smell, sight, or sound.
- Smell—Since natural gas is colorless and has no scent, gas companies make the gas smell like rotten eggs to help you detect possible leaks.
- Sight—Look for dirt blowing in the air, bubbles in standing water, or discolored or dead grass or plants around the pipeline area.
- Sound—Listen for an unusual noise like roaring, hissing, or whistling.
- Report a problem—Contact your gas company to report any problems, including:
- Emergencies—Report gas leaks, pipeline breaks, and other gas-related emergencies to your gas company and the local fire department.
- Service interruptions—If a technician has turned off your meter, or if your service was interrupted during severe weather or in an emergency, contact your gas company to reconnect your service. Do not try to turn it back on or tamper with natural gas meters and service lines.
- Damage to your gas system or appliances—If your meter, furnace, or any other gas equipment or appliances were under water or damaged during an emergency, you will need a qualified technician to inspect, repair, and restart those devices.
- Follow evacuation orders—Do not turn off the natural gas service to your home. Your gas company will work with emergency management officials to address the situation.
- Certify your system—Homeowners are responsible for maintaining all natural gas lines on your side of the meter, as well as any appliances powered by natural gas. Before your gas company can restore service:
- Your home must have electricity, and it must be habitable and occupied.
- Your furnaces, boilers, or other appliances must be free of standing water. A qualified technician must service and inspect any appliances exposed to flooding or other damage, as well as the gas meter area. Provide entry and clear access to these appliances and areas.
- Once a qualified technician says your natural gas system and appliances are safe for use, he or she must connect your natural gas line to the natural gas valve before the valve can be turned on. Learn more
Disclaimer: Because every emergency is different, it is important for your safety that you follow the directives of your state and local emergency management authorities and local utilities. The information provided on DOE's website is intended for general informational purposes only and is not an endorsement of any particular material or service. Before engaging in any activities that could impact utility services such as electricity or natural gas, contact your local utility to ensure that the activities are done safely.
For additional emergency-planning resources, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency's website, ready.gov. State and local emergency management authorities and local utilities may also provide helpful guidance.