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Editorial: If you smell or hear gas escaping, get outside

Fortis B.C. and Technical Safety B.C. offer natural gas safety tips
Firefighters and police comb through the wreckage of a home that exploded near downtown Nanaimo on Sunday, Feb. 27. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

It’s shocking to see the remnants of a house that’s been blasted to smithereens. But we needn’t be fearful that our natural-gas-fuelled homes will meet the same fate.

A vacant home on Pine Street exploded this week, causing some injuries and making a mess. While police, firefighters and utility crews determine what caused the house to blow up – witnesses and officers smelled gas, but the incident was still under investigation at press time – it might be worthwhile to share some natural gas safety tips.

Lauren Lea, a Fortis B.C. spokesperson, said crews ran safety checks of the system in the area immediately following the incident and found no leaks or cause for concern.

Homeowners and tenants generally know that natural gas smells like rotten eggs, and that’s by design – gas companies add the chemical mercaptan to what would otherwise be an odourless gas specifically so that people catch a whiff of any leaks. The hissing sound of gas can offer another warning. Either way, if it smells like or sounds like gas is escaping inside a home, it’s time to get outside, leaving the door open on your way out. Fortis says to act fast, avoid hitting any electrical switches, and wait until you’re safely outside before calling 911 or Fortis B.C.’s 24-hour emergency line at 1-800-663-9911.

Technical Safety B.C., in an e-mail to the News Bulletin, said residents should hire licensed gas contractors to install and inspect appliances, piping and vents, and furnaces, fireplaces and water heaters should be serviced annually. Gas appliances installed in B.C. must have a Canadian accepted label or certification mark.

It’s also important to call B.C. One Call at 1-800-474-6866 before digging for home construction and improvements. Projects that involve working with gas lines tend to be more complicated, and even seasoned do-it-yourselfers are are urged to leave those jobs to certified professionals.

We can rest assured that houses in Nanaimo don’t explode, generally, and that our natural gas supplier is monitoring the system very closely.

“Even though we don’t know what happened in the Nanaimo incident, Fortis B.C. does have an excellent safety record and we dedicate resources to ensure our system is safe 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Lea said.

-files from Metro Creative

READ ALSO: House explodes in Nanaimo, injuring 6, none seriously

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About the Author: Nanaimo Bulletin News Staff

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