General Question

Dog's avatar

How long does it take for a little natural gas to safely clear out of a house?

Asked by Dog (24428 points ) December 17th, 2010

Okay nobody is in chat and everyone has a life this friday night except for my girls and I so I am asking here in hopes someone can give advice.

My girls and I are outside in the cold because we came home to a house that lightly smelled of natural gas.

On investigation one of the knobs on the stove top was slightly on.

The gas smell was not overwhelming. I did not smell it at all but one of the girls did.

So we opened up every window, did not turn on any lights or fans and are camped out in the great outdoors of the front porch.

So how long should we stay out in the damp cold? It has been a half hour.

I cannot smell gas anymore but is there any kind of set time frame?

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19 Answers

HungryGuy's avatar

I would think that a half hour is fine, especially if you don’t smell gas any more and you know for certain that the cause was your gas knob left on.

But don’t just take my word, I’d suggest you call the gas company and ask to be safe. They might say “yes, it’s safe now,” or they might dispatch a truck just because the rules say they have to on any report of a gas leak, which is probably a good idea anyway…

SamIAm's avatar

I think you’re probably fine (but that’s a guess) ... maybe call the fire dept and ask them if you don’t get a sufficient answer here.

HungryGuy's avatar

Nah, the fire department will send a fire truck and every fireman on duty, and slap you with a big bill for their trouble… The gas company will send a truck out and give you the all clear without charging you for it (unless there really is a repair on your side of the meter that is needed).

Dog's avatar

Thanks for the responses. I would rather not call the fire department because of what @HungryGuy just wrote. Our local fire dept. is bored (this is a good thing really) and they would send out everyone and likely evacuate the neighbors on each side. I just do not think it is really on par with all that excitement and a bill…

I will call the gas company. :D Lurve to both of you. Nice to have someone with some good advice on a Friday night.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

There isn’t a problem so long as you don’t light anything on fire. Turning on a fan to help it clear out should be fine, as are lights.

HungryGuy's avatar

Actually, if you still smell gas, the last thing you want to do is turn on a fan (or any other electrical device). Let it air out naturally through the open windows…

CyanoticWasp's avatar

If you don’t smell gas then you’re safe, at least as safe as you are every other day that you don’t smell gas.

You were smart to avoid lights, but keep in mind if anything like this ever happens again that it may not be safe to enter for any reason including to open windows and vent. Even without a spark, if there was enough gas in the house to displace enough oxygen (below about 20% of the mix of ‘all gases’) then the people entering run a real risk of asphyxiation. And everyone entering afterward without breathing apparatus would run the same risk.

The advice to call the gas company was spot on, and the right thing to do unless the smell was just “a whiff of gas” and no more, and you knew that it hadn’t been filling the house for very long.

HungryGuy's avatar

Maybe, but if the gas was concentrated enough to be poisonous or to displace oxygen, the smell would be so bad that you couldn’t enter anyway…

SamIAm's avatar

The FD charges you to respond? Is that only if there’s no actual fire?

HungryGuy's avatar

Yeah. A lot of municipalities, they charge you if they dispatch a fire truck to your house. Just like an ambulance.

Dog's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Excellent point on the asphyxiation. If I ever walk in and smell it we will turn around and walk right back out. Thanks for that- my first instinct would be to keep the kids out and go find the source which would have to be the stove top and turn it off.

I called the gas company. They said that as long as we could no longer smell any gas the building should be safe to enter but to call back immediately if we smelled it again.

@Samantha_Rae in our area they were even discussing charging a $50.00 fee just to call 911. (sort of deters good Samaritans doesn’t it?)

Dog's avatar

Oh but I am still giving it another fifteen minutes.

SamIAm's avatar

@Dog: WHAT?! That’s insane!!! I’ve called 911 a few times in my life to report a fire, or car accident but certainly wouldn’t if it was gonna cost me 50 schamoles!

Dog's avatar

@Samantha_Rae Check this out

I do not know the current status of this but I am not calling unless the house is really really dangerous.

HungryGuy's avatar

Is that fee for the 911 call per-se? Or for dispatching the emergency services?

If for the call, then do it the old-fashioned way and call the police department, fire department, or ambulance directly on their regular phone number.

Dog's avatar

^ Bloody brilliant.

I do not like politics and don’t read the local paper so I have no idea if they have put it into effect. I just remember hearing it on the radio. I bet it is a fee charged to the phone bill. How else could they collect if not?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I’m sure the call fee (if even instituted) would be waived if it were an actual emergency – or could be so considered – or if it were on behalf of someone else. I would imagine that the fee plan is instituted to prevent or cut down on prank calls, calls for kittens stuck in 20’ tall sapling trees, noise complaints and other ‘non-emergency’ calls that people call 9–1-1 for because it’s just so much more convenient.

If you ever got a bill for calling 911 for a real emergency the best thing to do would be to publicize the fact and have it waived because of the negative publicity it would generate.

Dog's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Yep- pretty much.

Here was the proposal:

“Dialing 911 in Ventura could cost you $50 per call, under a new city proposal to recoup emergency dispatching costs and free up money to hire police officers and firefighters.

The Ventura City Council on Monday will consider approving a monthly Emergency Services Access fee to be collected on local cellular and land-line telephone bills. The council meets at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 501 Poli St.

In a revised version of the proposal, residents would have a choice: pay a flat $1.49 monthly fee on each phone line they own for unlimited 911 service, or $50 every time they call 911. The $50 charge could be the first of its kind in California.

**Exemptions to the $50 fee would be granted for those reporting a crime or calling 911 on behalf of someone else for incidents such as a traffic accident or house fire. Low-income residents enrolled in the state’s discount service also would be exempt.”

LuckyGuy's avatar

This is late but I’ll put it in anyway in case you still care.
Natural gas is odorless. Gas companies add mercaptan to the gas so you can smell it if there is a small leak. Humans are very sensitive to it. If you can only smell it, you are well below the explosive limit. If magically you were able to get natural gas without mercaptan, your eyes would hurt before you reached 10% of the lower explosive limit. You are safe to go back inside. At work, I personally did a test with a propane-butane mix. It was so painful I could not stand it – and that was at 10% of lower limit. This was a homogeneous mixture.

About the charge for 911. That’s because some people are idiots and waste resources.

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