Propane Use and Consumer Safety
Written on: September 13, 2021
What to Do If You Smell Gas and Other Tips
It only takes one big storm to disrupt lives and cause severe damage to communities—along with great risk for all of its residents.
While Georgians were fortunate to avoid the wide-spread flooding and power outages that Hurricane Ida brought to parts of the Southeast and Northeast, the storm’s aftermath serves as a topical time to provide some important information about a range of propane safety issues.
A remarkably safe fuel
First and foremost, rest assured that propane has a remarkable safety record, thanks to stringent codes and regulations developed by the propane industry and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
But it doesn’t stop there. Your Georgia propane company complies with all state regulations that require periodic testing and training. Propane professionals invest time and money to ensure the safety of their customers and everyone else who relies on propane.
The danger of gas leaks
It is very important that you know the proper steps to take in the event that you ever smell gas.
Prolonged propane inhalation can result in propane poisoning. While propane vapor is not toxic, it is an asphyxiating gas. This means propane will displace the oxygen in your lungs, making it difficult or even impossible to breathe if you’re exposed to high concentrations. If you suspect you have inhaled a significant amount of propane, call 9-1-1 immediately.
The symptoms of propane poisoning depend on how you were exposed. If propane inhalation has occurred, your symptoms will be due to oxygen deprivation. These symptoms can include nausea, dizziness, headache, drowsiness, coughing, and irregular heartbeat. Read more about propane poisoning.
What to do if you smell gas
If you think you smell propane in your home, camper, RV or the area around any gas equipment, or if a propane gas detector alerts you to the presence of propane, you should IMMEDIATELY follow these suggestions:
- Extinguish all smoking materials and any other open flames or sources of ignition. Everyone should vacate the building, vehicle or area.
- Move away without using any electric switches, appliances, thermostats or telephones.
- If it is safe to do so, close the gas shutoff valve on the propane tank or cylinder.
- Call your propane supplier and/or your local fire department from a mobile phone or a neighbor’s telephone.
- Even if you do not continue to smell propane, do not open or turn on the propane supply valve. Do not reenter the building, vehicle or area. Let a qualified propane service technician and/or emergency personnel check for escaped propane.
- Have a properly trained propane service technician repair the leak. The propane service technician or emergency responder needs to determine that the leak situation has been fully resolved. The propane service technician should check all of your gas appliances and relight any appliance pilots.
- Return to the building, camper, RV or area only when the service technician or emergency responder indicates that it is safe to do so.
If at any time you have safety concerns, know that your propane service company is well trained and properly equipped to visit your home and address the situation.
To keep any safety issues to a minimum, your propane company recommends that you schedule a service visit from a licensed propane contractor at least once a year so that all of your propane tanks and appliances can be checked—and repaired if necessary.
What to do if a storm is on the way
Do the following if severe weather is forecast.
- Make sure you have enough propane to last for at least a week after the storm ends in case there are road blockages or closures.
- Monitor local media and websites for instructions on the appropriate actions to take.
After the storm, take these steps
- If there’s been a snow storm, clear a path to your propane tank at least one foot wide for propane delivery teams and tank maintenance.
- Use a broom to clear snow or ice from all vents, chimneys, and flues to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) gas backing up into your home.
- If you believe that any of your propane equipment has been damaged, contact your propane service provider immediately for an inspection. Remember, if you shut down your propane gas supply, you are required to have a pressure test performed by a licensed propane contractor before you can use your propane equipment again.
Other reminders for staying safe with propane
- Make sure all adults in your household know how to shut off the flow of gas from your propane storage tank. This is a recommended step if you ever smell propane gas—but shut off the valve only if you feel it’s safe to do so. If you are not sure how to turn off the valve, contact your local propane company.
- While propane is odorless, manufacturers incorporate an odor into it to alert homeowners in case of a gas leak. Many people say the odor smells like rotten eggs or the spray from a skunk.
- It’s important to confirm that everyone in the home is able to recognize the smell of propane—and what to do afterward. In the event that you or others in your home may have trouble smelling propane, make plans to install one or more propane gas detectors.
- Never store portable propane cylinders indoors or in an enclosed area such as a basement, garage, shed, or tent.
- Never use outdoor propane equipment (grills, portable generators, etc.) indoors. You should never use your kitchen stove for heat either. Carbon monoxide from these devices is a dangerous and potentially deadly hazard.
- Test and replace batteries when necessary in all carbon monoxide detectors in your home before winter, following the manufacturer’s instructions regarding maintenance. Know how to spot the symptoms of CO poisoning, and what to do if someone is experiencing them. Make sure your smoke detectors are operating properly also.
Do you want to learn more about propane safety? The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has produced videos to help you know about propane safety, with topics ranging from propane tank safety to the safe handling of your propane grill cylinders and more.
Click here to watch these short videos.