Kalamazoo, MI – Here are tips for preventing leaks of natural gas a propane, and information about what to do if you smell a leak.

Natural gas

Natural gas is used in the home for cooking, heating and water heating. Natural-gas providers add a chemical to the gas which creates a foul, rotten-egg smell if the gas is released.

Gas-leak prevention

Natural gas leaks are caused by damage to a gas pipeline. Some causes of damage are:

— Breaking or puncturing a natural gas pipeline.

— Too little or too much pressure in the gas system.

— Heavy ice on outside meters or pipelines.

— Hanging objects from a basement pipeline.

— Destructive natural events such as earthquakes, tornadoes or floods.

Propane gas

Propane gas can be used for home heating, water heating, stoves, barbecue grills, washers and dryers. Propane gas dissipates less slowly than natural gas and will collect in low places. Propane is treated with a rotten smell. However, certain conditions can cause the odor to fade, making it harder to detect. Users are encouraged to be alert for even a faint gas smell.

Propane-leak prevention

Some causes of propane gas leaks are:

— Overfilling or improperly filling a propane tank.

— Allowing a propane tank to run out of gas. Air and moisture inside an empty tank will create rust, and rust causes the propane odor in a leak to fade.

— Improperly relighting a pilot light on appliances.

— Storing combustible materials close to gas-burning appliances.

If you smell gas

— Leave your residence immediately.

— Contact your gas provider. Consumers Energy operates a natural gas leak emergency hotline at (800) 477-5050.

— Do not strike matches, light cigarettes or use any other combustible materials.

— Do not use your phone or any electrical appliances in the house. Don’t turn lights on or off, plug or unplug lights or electronics in your home. Any of these activities could create a spark that could start a fire or explosion.

— Do not return to your house until the gas company has found the leak and fixed it.

Will you be able to smell a gas leak?

Certain segments of the population will have more difficulty detecting the smell of a gas leak in their residence.

— As people age, their sense of smell becomes less acute. The elderly have difficulty detecting a gas leak.

— Smokers or people under the influence of alcohol or drugs may have a dulled sense of smell.

— Strong odors such as tobacco smoke or cooking odors can mask the smell of a gas leak.

— People with colds, allergies or sinus congestion may have a harder time smelling gas odors.

— If you think you will have difficulty detecting gas odors in your home, you should consider purchasing one or more natural gas or propane gas-leak detectors.