Responding to a Gas Leak

For any suspected gas emergency or questions regarding a gas odor or carbon monoxide, please call us immediately at 1-800-411-7343.

How to recognize a pipeline leak

It’s important to keep in mind that natural gas is flammable and that something as simple as a spark can serve as an ignition source. Use your sense of sight, hearing and smell and any of the following signs to alert you to the presence of a gas leak:

Look

  • Dirt or water being blown in the air.
  • Dead or dying vegetation (in an otherwise moist area) over or near pipeline areas.
  • A fire or explosion near a pipeline.
  • Exposed pipeline after an earthquake, fire, flood or other disaster.

Listen

  • An unusual sound, such as a hissing, whistling or roaring sound near a pipeline.

Smell

  • The distinctive odor* of natural gas.

* Some persons may not be able to smell the odor because they have a diminished sense of smell, olfactory fatigue [normal, temporary inability to distinguish an odor after prolonged exposure to it] or because the odor is being masked or hidden by other odors that are present, such as cooking, damp, musty or chemical odors. In addition, certain conditions in pipes and soil can cause odor fade — the loss of odorant so that it is not detectable by smell.)

Handling emergencies

Leaking gas from any damaged pipeline or gas meter could cause a fire, explosion, property damage and serious bodily injury.

Follow these guidelines if you encounter a leaking gas pipe or meter:

  • IMMEDIATELY and SAFELY EVACUATE the area and from a safe location, call SDG&E at 1-800-411-7343 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • CALL 911 promptly after leaving the area if the damage results in a natural gas leak that may endanger life or cause bodily harm or damage to property.
  • DO NOT light a match, candle, or cigarette.
  • DO NOT turn electrical devices on or off, including
  • light switches.
  • DO NOT start an engine or use any device, including a telephone, which could cause a spark.
  • DO NOT attempt to control the leak or repair the damaged pipe or meter. Do not use or turn off any equipment that could cause a spark. Motorized or electrically powered equipment or vehicles may create an ignition source if a gas leak is present. Safely abandon any motorized or powered equipment or vehicles. Gas leaking from a plastic pipe can create static electricity that can ignite the gas.
  • About the Distinctive Odor of Natural Gas

    Do not rely on your sense of smell alone.

    Although we add a distinctive odor to natural gas to aid in the detection of leaks, you should not rely on your sense of smell alone to determine if you have a gas leak.

    • Diminished sense of smell. Some persons may not be able to smell the odor because they have a diminished sense of smell.
    • Odor masking. Sometimes the odor is masked by other odors in the area.
    • Fading or loss of odorant. Certain conditions, such as odor fade (loss of odorant) may cause the odor to diminish so that it is not detectible.
  • About Odor Fade (loss of odorant)

    Odor fade or loss of odor can cause the odorant we put in the gas to diminish so that you can't smell it. Do not rely on your sense of smell only to detect the presence of natural gas.

    Causes of Odor Fade

    • Odor fade is caused by physical and chemical processes. Other factors that may cause odor fade include:
      • Construction and configuration of the customer’s gas facilities.
      • Presence of rust, moisture, liquids or other substances in the pipe.
      • Gas composition, pressure and flow.
      • Intermittent, little or no gas flow over an extended period that normally lasts until gas flow increases or becomes more frequent.
    • New pipe installations.
    • Steel and larger pipes.
    • Soil.

    If you have additional questions or concerns regarding odor fade, call SDG&E at 1-800-411-7343 or contact a licensed, qualified professional. You can also refer to the Odor Fade Safety Bulletin (pdf).