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Outdoor Natural Gas Safety
Before you do any digging in the dirt, call 811 or visit Call 811 two business days before so you don't hit an underground pipe. Natural gas smells like sulfur or rotten eggs and outdoor leaks can happen too.

Outdoor Safety

Call 811 before you dig

If you are planting trees or shrubs, or installing a fence, mailbox post, deck footing or sprinkler system, one dig with a shovel or backhoe could strike a buried natural gas or electric line.

You can protect yourself and your property by calling 811 or logging onto Call Before You dig online at least two business days before you dig. This will allow time for someone to locate and mark any buried wires, cables or pipes for you. If you're residential, it's a free service. Make sure to wait for the site to be marked before starting your digging project and respect the marks. This service is free.

If you nick or damage a gas pipeline, contact Avista at (800) 227-9187 to make repairs. Pipeline damage, if left unrepaired, can turn into a safety hazard.

When digging within two feet of the marked area, only use small hand tools such as a garden trowel to carefully expose the utility line. Keep in mind that utility installation is not the same for all utilities and requirements have changed through the years. Not all utilities are installed with protective casings and can be vulnerable to damage by tools as simple as a shovel. Always proceed with caution when digging around utility lines.

Gas meter safety

As a customer, it is important that you keep your gas meter(s) accessible for monthly readings, periodic maintenance and emergencies.

It really helps us when you:

  • Trim shrubs and other plants away from the meter so the dials are visible for reading.
  • Keep dirt or debris from collecting under or around the meter to prevent corrosion or leaks.
  • Make sure the meter shut-off valve is always accessible in case of emergency.
  • Don't place objects on or against the meter, stand on it or tie animals to it.
  • Protect the meter from vehicles or objects.
  • Remove any accumulations of snow or ice from the meter in the winter. Please do this gently and never use an open flame.
  • Never build decks or structures over Avista's pipelines or meters. Doing so runs a serious safety risk and prevents Avista from maintaining the infrastructure that serves our customers. We may be able to relocate our equipment to accommodate your project, but you could be responsible for the associated costs.
If you smell or hear natural gas

Colorless, odorless and lighter than air, natural gas becomes combustible when mixed with air and exposed to an ignition source. That's why we add an odorant that smells like rotten eggs so you'll know right away if there's a problem.

In case of a leak, here's what you and your family should know. Besides the smell, the signs of a natural gas leak may include:

  • Blowing or hissing sounds.
  • Dust blowing from a hole in the ground.
  • Continuous bubbling in wet or flooded areas.
  • Dead or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area.

If you smell or hear gas in your home or business, follow these steps:

  • Don't smoke, light matches, turn electrical switches on or off, use the telephone or do anything else that might create a spark.
  • Evacuate everyone from the area, and keep others away.
  • Call 911 and Avista at (800) 227-9187 from a neighbor's phone.
  • Don't go back inside your home or building until Avista says it is safe.

Where should you place your meter in a new gas service

Here are some things you need to know about placement of natural gas meters in Washington and Idaho.

In addition to the minimum location requirements outlined in this drawing (PDF), meter sets should not be installed in the following locations:

  • Closer than 15 inches from either side of centerline of electric meter per NEC 110-26.
  • Where:
    • They are subject to vehicular or snow damage, excessive corrosion or vibration.
    • They are difficult to read or where regular venting is limited such as within a porch, deck or enclosure.
    • They create a physical hazard.
    • They are in a drainage area.
  • More than 3 feet from where the houseline exist the structure.
  • Where excessive condensation will be present or where live steam, hot liquid, or corrosive gases or vapor are present.
  • In engine, boiler, heater or electrical rooms.
  • Under outside stairway or fire escape.

How to read your meter

Your Avista Utilities natural gas meter is a precise instrument with an outstanding record of accuracy. Before being placed on your home, Avista Utilities employees calibrate meters to within five tenths of one percent of total accuracy.

The quarter foot hand on a gas meter, rotating, is your visual indicator that energy is being used. It turns at a speed directly proportional to the amount of energy flowing into your home at any given time.

Learn more about how to read your meter.

Farmer or agriculture safety

The soil on your farm or range is rich with nutrients and minerals. But there may also be underground electric, natural gas, water and other utility lines.

Because these lines often lie close to the surface, they can be safety hazards when you do excavations, terracing projects, fence post installations, tiling and subsoiling.

Call before you dig - at least two working days ahead of time. This request initiates someone who will gladly come and mark the location of utility lines on your property free of charge. We just want to keep you safe.

Identifying pipeline markers

Avista posts brightly colored markers along our right-of-way to identify the presence of - but not necessarily the exact location of - our underground pipelines. A 24-hour emergency phone number, (800) 227-9187, is posted on the markers. For a list of other pipeline operators in your area, visit National Pipeline Mapping System.

Natural gas distribution systems consist of distribution main lines and service lines. Distribution main lines are generally installed in underground utility easements alongside streets and highways. Distribution service lines run from the distribution main line into homes and business. It is important for you to know that aboveground markers do not generally indicate distribution main and service lines.

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