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natural_gas_flames(MCT)—Art is imitating life here.

As I write this, I’m waiting for our utility to replace a 1924 steel gas line that was found to be leaking.

So the gas is off for a couple of hours, and a three-man crew is digging up the street in front of my house to fix the problem, thanks to a detection unit that roams our street once a year, as required by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

What happens between visits? Detection is up to you, and the utilities have made it easier.

Natural gas is a colorless, odorless hydrocarbon that’s nearly 100 percent combustible. It is primarily composed of methane, with small amounts of ethane, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide also part of its chemical makeup.

For safety purposes, a chemical odorant is added, which makes the presence of gas detectable. Utility company PSE&G, which employs the three fellows working in my neighborhood, offers this advice if you smell gas in your home:

  • Put out all open flames. No smoking. Do not light any appliances.
  • Don’t touch electric switches, thermostats, appliance controls, or electric panel breakers. Doing so may cause sparks that could lead to an ignition.
  • Do not use an automatic garage door opener.
  • Do not start your car if it is in the garage or in close proximity to the house.
  • Open windows and outside doors for ventilation.
  • If the odor is strong, don’t use your telephone or cellphone inside the house. Leave the premises on foot and call the utility from a neighbor’s home and remain outside until the emergency crew arrives.
  • Do not assume that someone else will report the condition. (Utilities typically do not charge their customers for responding to gas-leak emergencies.)
  • If your basement has flooded and needs to be pumped out and you have access to the gas control, turn it off before pumping out the basement.
  • If you’re unable to turn the gas off yourself, contact your local fire or municipal authorities before pumping out your basement.

©2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Distributed by MCT Information Services