Two explosions of homes, resulting in death and destruction in the last few days in northwest Ohio, has prompted a flurry of calls from area residents requesting safety checks from propane retailers.
Roger Fisher of Liberty Center, Ohio, said he didn’t hear the blast Wednesday, but he knew something serious was happening when vehicles were pulling onto his yard to get out of the way of fire trucks. He said people are concerned about the back-to-back blasts, the first of which was Sept. 17 in Wood County and caused by a suspected liquid propane leak. The second Wednesday in Henry County was a suspected gas leak.
“Obviously people are wondering what could be the cause of this kind of repetitive situation,” Mr. Fisher said. “The biggest concern is why are we having these situations. It is a cause for concern; that’s the general feeling.”
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In Toledo, fire Lt. Matt Hertzfeld said that for natural-gas consumers, the basic rule of safety is simple: if you smell the telltale rotten-eggs odor or hear a suspicious hissing sound, get out of whatever building you are in immediately.
“Don’t turn any light switches on, don’t make any phone calls. Just get to a safe place and then call 911,” the lieutenant said.
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Even a cell-phone call could provide enough of a spark to trigger an explosion.
“We don’t want people going to try to find the source,” Lieutenant Hertzfeld said. “And if your pilot light goes out, give it time to clear before trying to light it again. If you’re having trouble with it, call a technician.”
Experts recommend that homeowners have their furnaces cleaned and checked annually.
Natural gas is normally colorless and odorless, but a harmless odorant — most commonly, mercaptan — is added to give it a foul smell.
Besides protecting against a natural-gas leak, people should be aware of carbon-monoxide leaks, which can occur on the exhaust side of a furnace system.
Carbon monoxide also is odorless and colorless, and while not explosive, it is poisonous.
“Smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide detectors go hand-in-hand these days,” Lieutenant Hertzfeld said, urging people to check both detector types regularly to make sure they work.
According to the Ohio Propane Gas Association, propane is a widely used fuel. It is colorless and odorless. To make propane easier to detect in the event of a leak or spill, manufacturers also deliberately add a chemical compound to give it a smell. Propane is flammable when mixed with air and can be ignited by many sources, including open flames.
Just as with natural gas, those who smell propane are told to leave the area immediately.
Other propane tips:
● All residents should be instructed on what propane smells like.
● Before using a propane appliance, a service technician must check the entire system to ensure that it is leak-free.
● Under some circumstances, a propane leak might not be detected by smell. Propane gas detectors are designed to sound an alarm if they sense the presence of propane.