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. Communicate effectively with the public, and ensure that first responders and gas companies have everything they need to speed up restoration efforts.
- Effectively communicate with the public—It may be necessary to explain to the public why it takes longer to restore natural gas service than it typically does to restore electricity or resolve fuel shortages. A total loss of gas supply in a region can take weeks–even months–to restore as crews may have to rebuild underground pipelines and then must purge air from the entire system, re-pressure it, and then manually relight pilot lights for all of the customers that have been shut off.
- Provide access to customer premises—Inform the public that first responders and gas company workers, all of whom will be able to show proper identification, may have to access customer premises to turn off gas valves. In cases where the customer is not available to provide access, forced entry into the premises may be required to gain access to the valves. Gas companies will similarly need access after completing system repairs and restoring service, to relight pilot lights, and check for the safe operation of gas appliances.
- Prepare for quick evacuations—In the event of a gas leak, pipeline break, or other gas-related emergencies, be prepared to quickly evacuate occupants of a single building or several buildings. Emergency responders and gas company workers generally are trained to carry out this type of evacuation.
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.