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Questions and Answers About Natural Gas Safety

What causes carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, or "CO" for short, happens when an appliance that burns fuel isn't working right. It can also happen if a car is running inside a garage.

If the gas is burning the right way, it mixes with the oxygen in the air to produce harmless carbon dioxide and water vapor. But if the fuel doesn't get enough oxygen, or if equipment parts are broken or cracked, carbon monoxide can develop.

That's why it's so dangerous to try to use a gas stove to keep warm if the power goes out. There won't be enough oxygen in the room for both the stove and you!

Why does natural gas smell like rotten eggs?

When natural gas comes out of the ground, you can't see it or smell it. Gas companies add the odor of rotten eggs to make even the smallest gas leak easier to notice.

What should I do if I smell natural gas?

If a really bad smell happens all of a sudden, or your CO detector goes off, get everyone out of the house right away and ask a grown-up to call 911 from a cell phone or a neighbor's phone.

Why shouldn't I call 911 from my house?

Using a telephone might cause a spark that could cause an explosion.

Why is the flame on our gas stove blue?

The blue flame means that the gas is getting the oxygen it needs.

If the flame on the stove or pilot light is yellow, it might be giving off harmful fumes. The appliance needs to be checked by a professional right away.

Why should I not move the little flags in people’s yards?

Those are underground pipeline markers placed there by the local utility company to let the construction people know where natural gas lines and other underground equipment are buried. If the flags have been moved the worker may dig somewhere he or she thinks is safe and hit something with their equipment and it could cause a lot of damage!

Kids and Natural Gas Safety video
The American Gas Association created this short video to help educate youth about the importance of natural gas safety in the home. The animated video, aimed at elementary and middle school aged children, explains which appliances use natural gas, how to identify a natural gas leak and what to do if a leak occurs.

Test your safety smarts

Now that you've read about the dangers of natural gas, test your smarts by going through the natural gas safety house.


Fun stuff to print:

Energy Safety Survey [PDF]

Alliant Energy Kids activity book [PDF]