During an emergency gas leak repair in south London the other day, I came across a textbook example of how important it is to act immediately when you smell gas. Luckily, the first thing the owners did was call the Emergency Service Provider, or ESP for short, when they thought they could smell something. Contrary to what a lot of people think, this is NOT British Gas or the gasboard.
The Emergency Service Provider is the a free service that anyone can call, regardless of whether you are the owner, tenant, visitor or even just somebody who walks somewhere and thinks there is a gas smell somewhere. Although the company that will actually attend to the suspected gas escape differs from area to area, the number to call anywhere on the English mainland is 0800 111 999. In south London, it is National Grid that is responsible for attending to potential gas escapes but it may be a contractor like Morrisons that will send an engineer out.
In this case, it was the contractor that knocked on the door within half an hour of the smell being reported (they usually are very quick indeed). He tried to locate the leak but was not able to do that in the limited amount of time available and therefore had no other option than to make the situation safe by isolating the gas. The owner then called me and I went a couple of hours later to find out where the leaking gas came from.
As a gasboiler repair specialist, I have very sensitive electronic equipment that can help me trace the source of the gas escape even if it is extremely small. In this case, after I had reinstated the supply, I could detect a slight smell of gas confirming that there actually was a problem but it wasn’t very strong. No doubt some people would have considered this only minor smell to be something not very dangerous and kept the gas on over the weekend to avoid extra cost or inconvenience. In cases like this one, that could turn into a disaster.
What had happened, was a slow rotting away from a gaspipe partially buried in cement until the surface was wafer thin and the first pin prick hole appeared causing the slight smell. When I moved the washing machine to get to it, the pipe moved also and the pin prick size hole became a much wider crack nearly an inch long. If that had slight knock had not been me but the washing machine shaking a bit during the wash, a lot of gas would have escaped creating a very dangerous situation very quickly.
The moral of this story is to err on the side of caution and call the Gas Emergency number 0800 111 999 when you think you MAY smell gas. It won’t cost you anything irrespective of time or day and regardless of whether they find a leak or not, and nobody will blame you for being cautious.
Why not check right now to make sure the free gas leak emergency number for south London is clearly displayed on or near your gas meter, so it you know where to find it if there is a problem one day.