What to do if you smell gas in your property

Suppose you return home, or awaken, to a smell of gas in your property: this is a situation that can easily cause feelings of panic, when it’s very easy to do something wrong. Rehearsing the situation, at least in your mind, and preferably in practice, can help a great deal.


If the situation arises, you’ll need to head for the emergency control valve (ECV) which is generally next to the gas meter.


While you’re rehearsing though, you may need to check if any of the items in the list below apply, and deal with anything before any emergency:

  • You don’t know where the meter and ECV are.
  • They’re in a cupboard that’s full of stuff so there’s no ready access.
  • They’re in a meter box but you don’t know where the key is.
  • The ECV is too high up to reach without a step, and there may not be a safe step handy.
  • You’ve no torches, or you don’t know where they are, or they don’t work, or the batteries are dead.


Make the assumption that you’ll be operating in poor conditions the dark. It’s vital when there’s gas around not to operate electrical switches, whether switching on or off, since the action of switching generates tiny sparks which could ignite gas. And for goodness sake, don’t smoke or light any matches.


So, you’ve sorted this out, and the occasion arises – now for the easy bit! You make your way, without rushing, to the gas meter, perhaps by torchlight, and turn the ECV handle 90 degrees to the horizontal, OFF position. The gas supply to your property should now be shut off.


Open doors and windows to fill the place with fresh air.


Check that a gas appliance such as a gas fire or cooker hasn’t been left on unlit. If it has, that’s the source identified.


It would help to go outside yourself for some minutes, partly to ensure that your sense of smell returns fully.


Inside again, if the smell of gas has gone, close the doors and windows. If the smell of gas returns with the ECV still off, phone the emergency service provider on 0800 111999 (the number should be on a label on the front of your meter – put it in your mobile or house phone).


If you did find an appliance turned on and you’ve turned it off, then once the

smell of gas has gone, turn the ECV handle back to the vertical, ON position.


If there was no obvious source of the gas, you can either contact the emergency service provider (ESP) or a Gas Safe registered engineer (that could be me!). The ESP will leave things in a safe condition, and may effect a repair, but only if this can be done within a matter of minutes, which is only feasible if the source is obvious and accessible.


(See http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Gas/Safety/Gas+Emergency/ )


Now for a word of reassurance: the chemical added to natural gas to give it an odour is detectable by smell in miniscule quantities, whereas the gas will only ignite if its concentration exceeds about 5% in air (and is less than 15%). So, you can smell gas way before there’s an ignition hazard – but behave as though there is and stay safe.