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Emergency Responders

When public safety is in question, the fire and police departments are usually the first to respond. Find out more information on the properties of natural gas and carbon monoxide or what to do if there is a damaged gas pipe. Thank you for being our partner in safety.

Here’s what you should know about carbon monoxide:

  • Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is toxic to humans. Burning any fossil fuel, such as wood, oil, coal, propane and natural gas, can produce it. Production of carbon monoxide usually indicates a malfunction in the combustion process.
  • Initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may resemble the flu, mental confusion, ringing in ears, shortness of breath.
  • Moderate carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can be similar to those of a person who is intoxicated, skin may turn pink in color and mucous membranes may turn a cherry red.

CO in air Inhalation time and symptoms
35 PPM OSHA time weighted average limit for continuous exposure in any 8-hr period.
200 PPM OSHA short term exposure limit (15 min.) - slight headache, tiredness, dizziness, or nausea after 2 to 3 hrs.
400 PPM Frontal headaches within 1 to 2 hrs. Life-threatening after 3 hrs. 
800 PPM Dizziness, nausea, convulsions within 45 min. Unconsciousness within 2 hrs; death within 2 to 3 hrs.
1200 PPM Headache, dizziness, nausea within 20 min. Death within 1 hr.
3200 PPM Headache, dizziness, nausea within 5 to 10 min. Death within 30 min.
6400 PPM Headache, dizziness, nausea within 1 to 2 min. Death within 10 to 15 min.
12800 PPM Death within 1 to 3 min.
(Source: American Industrial Hygiene Assn.)

Carbon monoxide detector alarms

  • Avista will respond to calls concerning carbon monoxide detectors that have alarmed if there is a natural gas appliance on the premises. Due to the inconsistent nature of detectors that are on the market and the effect of ambient carbon monoxide on some detectors, not all alarms are indicative of a life-threatening situation.
  • An Avista service representative will take samples and attempt to discover the source of any carbon monoxide. Malfunctioning appliances will either be adjusted or turned off pending repairs. If no indicators of carbon monoxide are found, the customer will be advised to contact the manufacturer of the detector for future instructions.

Properties of natural gas:

  • Natural gas is colorless and odorless. An odorant called mercaptan (smells like rotten eggs) is added before distribution to make leaks easily recognizable.
  • Natural gas is non-toxic and non-poisonous but, like other fuels, it will produce poisonous carbon monoxide gas when burned improperly by malfunctioning equipment.
  • Natural gas is comprised mostly of methane, which rises because it is lighter than air. When natural gas escapes outside, it diffuses rapidly.
  • With a proper gas/air mixture (approximately 4 percent to 15 percent gas to air), escaping gas can be ignited by matches, sparks, light switches, telephones, two-way radios, door bells, cell phones, automobile motors and other dialectical equipment.

Procedures for all emergencies involving natural gas

Avista's primary objective when responding to an emergency is to protect life first and then property.

  • Call Avista immediately at (800) 227-9187.
  • Know that when you call Avista, a crew or supervisor will be dispatched as soon as possible. Provide the location and give a brief description of the situation (e.g., gas leaking or burning, inside or outside building).
  • Evacuate the immediate area.
  • Prohibit smoking, matches and operation of electrical equipment in the immediate area.
  • If necessary, turn the gas valve off at the meter or appliance. If you DO turn a gas valve off, LEAVE IT OFF. Only trained Avista personnel should turn it back on.
  • Do NOT turn OFF a valve at the MAIN or regulator station, even in an emergency, since it may cause public safety concerns elsewhere.
  • At the scene of the emergency, gas crews and fire/police will coordinate with each other.

Structure fires

The majority of structure fires do not involve natural gas appliances or the gas meter; however, if you think the structure has natural gas, contact Avista immediately. This is important for the following reasons:

  • Unseen damage may have occurred to Avista's gas pipeline facilities (riser, valve, service line, etc.)
  • Protection of emergency personnel from possible gas migration from unseen damage.
  • If no instance should the fire or police departments remove the natural gas meter, regulator, or other associated facilities. It may be necessary to test the operation of these facilities in their present configuration by Avista, state or federal regulatory agencies.

Natural gas burning outdoors

  • Unless life is in jeopardy, make no attempt to extinguish the fire since burning gas outside is unlikely to explode.
  • Check for gas accumulating in nearby buildings and sewers. Remember, however, never to enter a manhole or sewer.
  • Spray water on surrounding combustibles if they are in danger of igniting.
  • Do not use water on burning gas at its point of escape.

Natural gas burning indoors

  • Shut off gas AT THE METER and inform Avista that you have shut off meter.
  • If gas supply cannot be safely shut off, keep surrounding combustibles wet with spray stream until Avista can control the flow of gas.
  • If closing the valve at the meter does not eliminate a gas fire burning in a building, the source of the gas supply is probably outside.
  • Check the surrounding area, including other buildings, for evidence of natural gas.

Natural gas escaping outdoors

  • Do not use any ignition sources such as flares for traffic control in the vicinity of any natural gas leak.
  • Check surrounding buildings and basements for natural gas odors. As appropriate, turn off heating and air conditioning systems that bring air into the building.
  • If necessary, reroute or restrict traffic until the gas leak is brought under control.

Natural gas escaping indoors

  • Evacuate the building.
  • Do not operate electrical switches.
  • If the gas leak cannot be traced to a source within the building, check the surrounding area, including other buildings.
  • Turn off the valve on the gas meter.
  • If you DO turn off a valve, LEAVE IT OFF. Only trained Avista personnel should turn it back on.
  • Avista will check the gas piping and appliances for safety and relight the pilot light, if needed.

Broken, severed or damaged gas pipe

Even though excavators are required to call the national 811 number at least two working days before beginning any excavation work, damage to gas pipelines still may occur.

  • Only turn off gas valves at the METER.
  • Plastic pipe can carry a static electrical charge that can cause leaking gas to ignite. STAY CLEAR OF DAMAGED PLASTIC PIPE.
  • Evacuate the immediate area and stay upwind.
  • The color of the paint, stake or other underground utility locate marker indicates what is below - yellow with company identifier for natural gas in Oregon.

Gas in manholes, vaults and sewers

  • Never enter a manhole, vault or sewer if gases or vapors are even suspected to be present.
  • Always check atmosphere of manhole, vault or sewer with combustible gas detector and oxygen depletion instrument.
  • If gas is burning, do not attempt to extinguish the flames.
  • Check basements and rooms of adjoining building for gas odors.
  • Ventilate these buildings by opening windows and doors.

Natural disasters

In the case of a natural disaster such as an earthquake, firestorm, widespread flooding, etc., natural gas service to homes and businesses should only be closed if there is a gas odor present, or if there is extensive damage to the structures involved. The gas should be turned off at the meter, and the valve should be left off until Avista gas personnel arrive to inspect and restore service. Inform Avista immediately of the locations of any line breaks, gas odors, submerged facilities, or damaged structures that may have natural gas service.

Natural gas transmission pipelines

Avista's transmission pipelines are indicated by the use of pipeline markers, which have a 24-hour emergency response number. These markers give the general route of the pipeline.

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 businesses. It is important for you to know that aboveground markers do not generally indicate distribution main and service lines.

Are there transmission pipelines in your response area?

Your department can access maps by registering with the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS). The NPMS will provide a list of pipelines and their operator and contact information by county or zip code.

Avista constantly monitors the integrity of the facilities used to deliver gas to our customers. For information on Avista's Integrity Management program, please call (800) 227-9187 which may include High Consequence Areas (HCA's).

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