Carbon monoxide is a deadly chemical that kills without warning. This naturally occurring substance is harnessed to heat homes and cook food. In nature, carbon monoxide has no smell which is why gas companies add a scent to their mixture. If you smell gas, there are steps you need to take for your safety and that of your family.
Safety Steps if You Smell Gas
A gas leak is something to take seriously. If there is a suspected gas leak,
Turn off Pilot Lights
First, do a quick check to ensure all pilot lights and burners are off this includes gas fireplaces, gas stoves and other gas-operated appliances. The smell may be coming from a pilot light out.
Ventilate the Area
Open a window to ventilate the area. It is a good idea to open any doors to the outside within your immediate vicinity.
Evacuate the Area
After opening the windows, evacuate the room. Go outside into the fresh air and make calls from either a cell phone or neighboring home.
Do not make any calls from inside the room or house and do not turn on any light switches. The electrical bursts from either of these devices can cause an explosion. An area only needs to be twenty-five percent full of gas to explode.
Also, do not take time to go through the house to open all windows, as this will compromise your safety, only get the windows nearest to you and leave the premises.
Who to Call if You Smell Gas Leaks?
Dial 911 in the US or Canada to reach emergency operators and explain the situation. The fire department will respond. If you feel that you may have inhaled a significant amount of carbon monoxide, request ambulatory services as carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly.
Call your local gas company to report the leak. If you do not know the number of the gas company. most states or cities have a local, 3 digit number that can be called to reach gas authorities.
Do not attempt to inspect the area yourself. Only the fire department or gas experts should examine the pipes. They have the training and the equipment to investigate the area safely.
Trenchless Methods for Inspection and Repair
Trenchless Inspection of Gas Leaks
Trenchless inspection relies mainly on using video or sensor data to give inspectors an adequate idea of how much damage occurred.
Video inspections use one of three main types of cameras. The push camera is the most common. This camera attaches to a line which an operator pushes into the pipe, which feeds back recordings to the operator. With only a single camera, this method is a bit more time to consuming, as there is no way to check multiple pipes at once.
Alternatively, inspectors may use a lateral launch camera. Like the push camera, it attaches to a powered line that an operator controls. With a lateral launch, there are two cameras. When a branch in the line appears, the second cam launches to inspect conditions, making the work go quicker.
Finally, inspectors may opt to use a robotic camera. As with the lateral launch, this camera is controlled by the operator through the remote. However, these cameras ride on a small robot. They move quickly through the piping network, and the onboard lens rotates 360 degrees to get a better view of the wall conditions.
Instead of using a camera to determine where the leak is coming from, some utilize a sensor tool known as a pipeline inspection gauge (PIG). These sensors use ultrasonic and magnetic flux testing. Ultrasonic testing measures the thickness of the pipe wall. Magnetic flux testing helps to determine flaws in the line as well as leak location and any corrosion.
PIGs are pushed into the line by normal flow or driven by gas, or specific liquids introduced for the sole purpose of moving the PIG along. While in the pipeline, the PIG cleans the plumbing while completing the inspection.
Trenchless Repair of Gas Leaks
Once the operator locates the break, repairs or replacement takes place. As with the inspection process, there are several options for trenchless rehabilitation.
Sliplining is a popular option if the damage is minimal. An operator inserts a resin-saturated fiberglass tube into the line. Workers push the liner in upstream from the break. The liner is flexible enough to move around bends. Once in place, it hardens becoming a new pipe. The existing pipeline offers added support and protection for the new line.
Pneumatic boring is ideal for private properties. The sharp tool uses a compressor to create a borehole in which workers run the new line. The added benefit is that boring only requires a small space, so it can work better than options which may need more substantial entrance and exit trenches.
If the line is extremely damaged, replacing the pipe may be the only option. Pipe bursting is a trenchless technique that breaks up the existing pipeline while pulling the new one in place. By digging entrance and exit pits, workers insert a bursting head attached to a steel cable. The cable moves through the pipe pulling the head and breaking the line. A new pipeline comes in behind the head. (Read on in "An Introduction to Pipe Bursting.")
For more information on sliplining vs pipe bursting, read, "Sliplining or Pipe Bursting for Pipe Repair?"
Overall, gas leaks are very dangerous, but fixable. If you smell gas, open a window and evacuate the structure. Don’t turn on any light switches as the gas may ignite. Let trained professionals inspect and service the lines before using gas-powered appliances. Remember that trenchless repair can save you more money in labor and resurfacing costs as trenching isn't needed.