What Do You Do When You Think You Smell Gas?

Do you know what propane smells like? If you think you smell gas, do you know what to do next? Propane has many safety features, i.e. it is non-toxic, it will not ignite unless source is 920°F, and it is not harmful to soil or ground water. However, propane is a flammable gas. Therefore, you need to be aware of how to safely use propane.

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Recognizing the Smell of Propane

Propane has a strong unpleasant smell like rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or a dead animal. Propane manufacturers add the smell deliberately to help alert customers to propane leaks, which can create a safety hazard. Always take action if you think you smell this foul odor.

If You Smell Gas…

  1. No flames or sparks! Immediately put out all smoking materials and other open flames. Do not operate lights, appliances, telephones, or cell phones. Flames or sparks from these sources can trigger an explosion or a fire.
  2. Leave the area immediately! Get everyone out of the building or area where you suspect gas is leaking.
  3. Shut off the gas. Turn off the main gas supply valve on your propane tank if it is safe to do so. To close the valve, turn it to the right (clockwise).
  4. Report the leak. From a neighbor’s home or other nearby building away from the gas leak, call your propane retailer right away. If you can’t reach your propane retailer, call 911 or your local fire department.
  5. Do not return to the building or area until your propane retailer, emergency responder, or qualified service technician determines that it is safe to do so.
  6. Get your system checked. Before you attempt to use any of your propane appliances, your propane retailer or a qualified service technician must check your entire system to ensure that it is leak-free.

If You Detect a Gas Leak…

  • Immediately evacuate everyone from the house and call your local propane provider or the fire department from a neighbor’s telephone.
  • Learn what propane smells like. Propane retailers print scratch-and-sniff pamphlets to help your family recognize its distinctive odor.
  • Call 811 before you dig. Know where gas lines are located, so you won’t damage them when digging or working in the yard.
  • Change or clean furnace filters regularly as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Don’t store cleaning fluids, oil-soaked rags, gasoline, or other flammable liquids near a gas-burning appliance, where vapors could be ignited by the pilot light.

Can You Smell It?

It may be hard for some people to smell propane for the following reasons:

  • The have a cold, allergies, sinus congestion, or another medical condition.
  • Their sense of smell is reduced due to use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs.
  • Tobacco smoke, cooking odors and other strong odors can mask the smell of propane.
  • As people age, their sense of smell can become less sensitive.
  • IF the smell of propane is present in the air over a period of time, “odor fatigue” can occur. The nose “gets tired” and a person no longer smells the propane odor.
  • The propane smell may be in a location (basement or attic)( where it is not detected by people in other areas of the building.
  • Odor loss can occur – an unintended reduction in the concentration of the odor of propane.

If you are concerned that you or others in your home may have difficulty smelling propane, consider buying one or more propane gas detectors.

Going Further

Looking for a fun way to teach your children about propane safety? Check out PropaneKids.com—it’s a fun, interactive website that features games and activities that teach children how to adopt good propane safety habits in and around the home. The site even has a resources section for parents and educators to download activities, like home safety inspection checklists, safety lesson plans, and coloring pages, to reinforce good safety habits for the whole family!

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