Is Calling 911 with An Old Cell Phone or No Wireless Plan Wise?

Many Americans have a cell phone of some sort for emergency purposes only and if so, largely for the ability to call 911. For some this might be an older hand-me-down or refurbished cell phone which may or may not have GPS or a service plan. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) laws require wireless service providers to connect ALL 911 calls to Public Safety Answering Points regardless of cell phone age or plan.

However, there are some big drawbacks to those who may be relying on older phones without GPS and/or no wireless service plan to get help in an emergency. Depending on how old the phone is, the 911 answering center may not be able to map where that phone is located if the caller is unable to talk. The call may even go to the wrong answering center. And if the phone is without a service plan and should get disconnected, there is no way for anyone to call back to that phone as the device does not have an assigned number.

This exact scenario played out in Boone and Dallas Counties in Iowa in this spring. Fortunately for the caller in this scenario, emergency responders were eventually (3.5 hrs later) able to reach the victim and get the medical help that was needed. As a result of this incidence, emergency responders have issued warnings of this peril.

In that light, perhaps it is time to consider other options if you, a loved one, or an elderly family member is replying on an older phone or a phone without a service plan as a means to contact 911 in a medical emergency. Options to consider may be a minimal cell phone service on an updated device or contracting with a Personal Emergency Response Service (PERS) for a medical monitoring device. There is some assistance for these services and devices for those that qualify.

Phone service assistance. Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia and Puerto offer programs that offer free phones and free service to Americans on government assistance or those who are below certain income thresholds. (Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota are included.) The programs and eligibility vary by state. To find out more about these programs, check out Free Government Cell Phones. The FCC offers the Lifeline program to help low-income individuals and families get discounted landline or cell phone service.  A Place for Mom offers some excellent suggestions on plans and phones for Seniors.

PERS assistance. Medicare, Medicare supplemental insurance (Medigap), and most private health insurance plans for the elderly do not cover assistance for PERS, medical alert devices or any other form of personal safety monitoring for seniors. However, some options that may be available include Medicaid, state assistance programs for the elderly or fixed income residents that do not qualify for Medicaid, and veteran assistance programs.

When there is an emergency, it is important that responders are able to reach the caller expediently; to make sure that can happen, everyone needs to understand the equipment and service they have and how it works.

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Keeping Your Clothes Dryer Safe

Most people don’t think about their clothes dryer as being a potentially dangerous appliance in their home.  Unfortunately, dryers are the source of thousands of house fires each year as well as some household mold issues.   With just a little regular cleaning and maintenance, you can protect your family and home from these dangers.

It doesn’t matter if you have an electric or gas clothes dryer.  The problem is lint.  Lint builds up in the lint trap, inside the vent hose and duct work, and inside the vent.  Whenever this happens, there is a reduction in air flow resulting in reduced drying efficiency.  Lint is also responsible for causing humidity levels to increase around vents and duct work which in turn can cause mildew and mold to develop in walls and insulation.   And most importantly, lint is combustible and causes fires.  Failure to clean the dryer is the leading cause of home dryer fires.

Here’s some tips for keeping your dryer, duct work, and vent as lint free as possible.

  • Clean the lint trap after every load or at the very least, at the end of a laundry cycle.  If you use fabric softener sheets, check the screen for clogging as some sheets will emit enough residue that the screen becomes clouded and tacky.  Should the screen be clogged, submerge the lint screen in hot water, soapy water and clean the screen with a bristle brush to get rid of the residue.
  • Invest in a dryer lint brush.  These long-handled flexible brushes are available at most hardware stores and allow one to clean areas that cannot be reached by hand down inside of the dryer, hoses, and ducts.  You may be surprised by the chunks of lint that the brush pulls out.  After removing the lint filter and cleaning with the brush, run the dryer on “air only” after using the dryer brush.  This will bring up any lint that might have been dislodged but didn’t cling to the brush.
  • Unplug and pull the dryer out at least once a year and vacuum any dust and lint that might have accumulated around the dryer, back of the dryer, floor, cabinets, etc.  While the dryer is out, remove the duct hose or duct.  You may need a screwdriver or pliers to remove the connecting clip or steel clamp.  Use the dryer brush inside the dryer opening to remove the lint accumulation.  Do the same with the hose or duct.  If you have a long duct to the outside as I do, you will have to rig a longer handle onto the brush.
  • Replace the duct hose if you have a white or silver vinyl duct hose.  All building codes now require metal or aluminum ducting for clothes dryers.  The ducting may be rigid or flexible.  If flexible aluminum ducting is used, it should be cleaned more often as it tends to collect more lint along the ridges.
  • Lastly, clean the exterior vent.  This is usually done from the outside of the home by lifting the flaps.  Using your hands or a brush, removed as much lint as possible.  Most of the flaps on the exterior vent can be removed to make cleaning easier.  Replace the flaps if they have been removed and make sure that they open properly.

A little dryer cleaning in a timely manner will greatly reduce the risk of fire.  Further, avoid starting the dryer before going to bed and running it while no one is at home.

For more information see the safety alert from the Consumer Products Commission,  https://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/118931/5022.pdf

Additional flyers like the one at the beginning of the blog are public domain publications and available for download from FEMA at https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/clothes_dryers.html

 

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Glass Kitchenware Cautions

In recent days I’ve spent a lot of time browsing social media to pass the long hours at the hospital with a family member.  In doing so, I came across a ‘pyrex bashing’ which in turn brought back an old memory.  Some years ago, I had prepared a casserole dish ahead using a glass baking dish.  When it was time to bake it for serving, I brought it out of the refrigerator and popped it into a cold oven.  As the oven came to temperature, I heard a loud pop and cracking sound.  Sure enough, the baking dish had cracked and split.   This was a baking dish I had used for several years and probably had done the same with it many times.  So what happened to my trusted “Pyrex” and why bash Pyrex?

I have no intention of bashing Pyrex or any other brand of glass kitchenware.  Rather, I would advocate to be a conscious consumer, know what one has, and use it properly.  Pyrex has been a trusted household name for decades and is often used as the word to refer to glass kitchenware and bakeware used for cooking and baking whether it is the Pyrex, Anchor Hocking, Bake King, or any other brand.  Pyrex was valued for years for its sturdiness and ability to withstand rapid, dramatic temperature changes that typically shatter normal glassware.  With changes in manufacturing, that old-fashioned reliability has changed.

Pyrex (trademarked as PYREX) is a brand introduced by Corning Inc in 1915 for a line of clear, low-thermal-expansion borosilicate glass used for laboratory glassware and kitchenware.  It was later expanded to include clear and opal ware products made of soda-lime glass. In 1998, Corning sold the Pyrex brand name to World Kitchen LLC. World Kitchen stopped the manufacture of borosilicate glass and changed to less expensive, tempered soda-lime glass for kitchenware sold in the United States.  Tempered soda-lime glass does not handle heat as well as borosilicate glass but does withstand breakage when dropped better.  With some caution, tempered soda-lime glass withstands thermal shocks reasonably well.  (To be fair, Anchor Hocking and Bake King products are also made from tempered soda-lime glass.)

I have a mix of Pyrex glass kitchenware that has accumulated over the years and the one that cracked was newer.  How can you tell whether you have a newer or older form of Pyrex? Here’s what to look for:

 

PYREX® (all UPPER CASE LETTERS plus, in the USA, a trademark notice comprising a capital R in a circle = low-thermal-expansion borosilicate glass either clear or opaque originally made by Corning Inc.

 

 

 

 

pyrex® (all lower case letters plus a trademark notice comprising a capital R in a circle) = clear tempered high-thermal-expansion soda-lime glass kitchenware made by World Kitchen.

 

 

 

 

PYREX (all UPPER CASE LETTERS in an encircled oval with no trademark notice with European country noted) = European license for use on borosilicate glass products manufactured by International Cookware.

 

 

So, in short, if glass kitchenware made from borosilicate glass is important to you, look for the trademark in ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS.  You will need to scour estate auctions, thrift stores, antique stores, or purchase in Europe to acquire it.  I’m glad that I still have some of the PYREX® pieces.

If you are resigned to using the modern-day tempered soda-lime kitchenware, some precautions are necessary.  In 2010, Consumer Reports tested some Pyrex and found that taking the newer glass out of a hot oven and placing it on a wet granite countertop yielded poor results with the glass shattering almost instantly.  As a result of its investigation, Consumer Reports called on the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to look into the problem of shattering bakeware.

Further, Consumer Reports issued ten precautions to consumers to minimize the chances of the glassware shattering:

  • Always place hot glassware on a dry, cloth potholder or towel.
  • Never use glassware for stovetop cooking or under a broiler.
  • Always allow the oven to fully preheat before placing the glassware in the oven.
  • Always cover the bottom of the dish with liquid before cooking meat or vegetables.
  • Don’t add liquid to hot glassware.
  • If you’re using the dish in a microwave, do not use browning elements, and avoid overheating oil and butter.
  • Do not take dishes directly from the freezer to the oven or vice versa.
  • Never place hot glassware directly on a countertop (or smooth top), metal surface, on a damp towel, in the sink, or on a cold or wet surface.
  • Inspect your dishes for chips, cracks, and scratches. Discard dishes with such damage.
  • To avoid risks associated with glass dishes, consider using metal bakeware for conventional and convection ovens.

As always, it is the consumer’s responsibility to read and save the manufacturer’s instructions for handling the product safely and then follow through.  If it’s too late for those instructions, check the label on the glassware for the designations given above to determine the glass content; and if it is an Anchor Hocking or Bake King product, know that it is a tempered soda-lime product.  If in doubt, the precautions issued by Consumer Reports will suffice for all.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Deicers–helpful or harmful?

“What do you recommend for deicing sidewalks?” was a recent question to AnswerLine.  Most deicing products readily available on the market contain salt compounds known as magnesium chloride (used as a liquid on roads), sodium chloride (table salt), calcium chloride, and potassium chloride (fertilizer). Each winter these materials are applied to sidewalks, driveways, and steps to prevent slipping and falling.  However, they are often applied without regard to the substance, application, or the damage that they may cause to the home, property, environment, pets, and nearby plants.

As for mentioned, deicing products are primarily comprised of salt.  And just like household salt, all salts are not the same.  Salts can cause injury to trees, lawns, and shrubs, corrode metal and concrete, and even do bodily harm to pets and humans.  The most problematic element in any of the deicing products is the chloride; it causes corrosion and is toxic to plants.

The University of Maryland offers some great information on deicers in their help sheet, Melting Ice Safely.  While this is an older publication (1998), there is good information on how deicers work and how to use them effectively and safely.  On the second page of the publication, there is a table comparing the fore-mentioned products along with their effectiveness, corrosiveness, and potential harmfulness to plants. 

A more recent product, calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), contains no chloride and is less damaging to cars, metals, and concrete and less toxic to plants.  It is also said to be biodegradable and pet and wildlife friendly.  It works very much like the traditional ‘chloride’ products to melt ice.  The big downside is the cost.

If you want to avoid deicing products, consider using sand, kitty litter, or chicken grit. While these products won’t melt snow, they will provide traction in slippery spots. Sand and kitty litter are safe for pets and plants and can be swept up when the snow melts. (Chicken grit may be too sharp for the paws of some pets but will not harm plants.)  Boots or shoes traversing any of these products should be removed upon entering a home as they could scratch floors.

Should the landscape fall victim to deicing, a recent article published by Reiman Gardens suggests flushing the area around the plant roots in the spring with water to leech out the salts.

The best advice is to know something about the substance (salts used in the product), consider the application, and then READ AND FOLLOW the manufacturer’s directions for applying the product to minimize damage to property and landscape.  And if possible, apply even less than is recommended.  Deicing products are not meant to replace shoveling or to melt all snow and ice, but to aid in removal efforts to prevent slipping and falling.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Stolen Packages

My husband and I recently were in Chicago for several days at our daughter’s house while she was away on a business trip. Sadly, on our watch a thief stole 3 packages that had been delivered to her front porch while we were out to lunch. Luckily she has a security camera so the whole thing was caught on tape which made it easier to submit a police report but the whole experience was very frustrating, maddening and unnerving.

According to an article in Consumer Reports there are some things you can do to lower your risk of being a target. Even though my daughter has a working internet-enabled security camera installed and has a security system to protect the house, it still happened and it can happen to anyone anywhere. The holidays are over for 2018 but you may want to consider being proactive in 2019 to help prevent a theft happening to you or someone you know.

If it is possible, avoid home delivery altogether. If you shop on Amazon they have lockers available in some locations (often a Whole Foods store) where you can have your packages delivered to and you retrieve using a security code for the locker. Amazon also offers a Key Kit that can be used for the delivery person to unlock your home and put your packages inside the door. An Amazon Key app is another alternative that is available for your packages to be put in the trunk of your car. There is a cost for some of those services but if you shop on Amazon a lot and buy a lot of things online it may be worth researching.

UPS recommends sending packages to where you are – not where you are not. Check with the company you work for to see if it is an option to have your packages delivered to you at work. Send to a relative or neighbor who is home during the day. Send to a walk in store and pick it up there if possible. UPS offers               “access points” in some locations which are delis, grocery stores, dry cleaners, florists, etc that allow packages to be dropped off by UPS and picked up by you later. Some UPS stores have mailbox service. UPS also has a service called My Choice that is free and lets you know when your package will be arriving so you can be there to accept it, reroute or reschedule the delivery, or authorize a shipment release.

USPS offers Informed Delivery Manager. It is also free and allows you to track your packages and leave delivery instructions if you are not going to be home.

Some shippers allow a required signature at delivery so if no one is home the delivery service will take it back to it’s facility and try again later or let you come pick it up and sign for it.

Door bell cameras, motion sensors and internet-enabled security cameras have their benefits but the benefit is usually realized after the theft has been committed, which was true in our case.

I sincerely hope you never have any packages stolen but if you do, notify the police immediately and file a report. You can also contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. They are the law enforcement arm of the postal service. You should contact the shipper and delivery service as well as your credit card company and the company you bought the packages from to see if you can get reimbursed or have a new package sent. We were, thankfully, able to get all three packages we had stolen replaced at no charge.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Electric Blanket Safety

With chilly nights becoming the norm, many are looking for warmer blankets and throws for cozy companions.  If one of those blankets or throws is electric, it should be inspected, regardless of age, before snuggling up for the season to make sure that it is safe.  Older blankets that have seen their better days are definitely a hazard but occasionally, a newer blanket or even one fresh out of the bag could have a wiring issue.  Electric blankets and their 100 feet of wiring account for numerous fires, injuries and death each year.

When inspecting a plug-in blanket or throw, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends looking for cracks and breaks in wiring, plugs, and connectors.  Also look for dark, charred, or frayed spots on either side of the blanket.  If the blanket shows any of these characteristics or is more than 10 years old, it should be thrown away—DO NOT DONATE. (If you want to keep the blanket for some other use like covering plants in the fall, throw away the control unit to render it non-electrical.) Older plug-ins (10 years plus) are more likely to be a hazard because most operate without a rheostat.  The rheostat control found on most newer blankets and throws control heat by gauging both the blanket temperature and the user’s body temperature.  Lastly, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to make sure the blanket has not been recalled.

If a new blanket or throw is to be purchased for self or as a gift, make sure it has been tested by and bears the label of a reputable testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).  Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions.  If the directions don’t match your intended use, do not purchase.  And again, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to make sure the blanket of consideration is not on the recall list.

Once the blanket or throw is in use, keep these safety tips in mind:

Keep the blanket flat while in use.  Folds or bunched-up areas can create and trap too much heat.  This also includes tucking ends in which can cause excessive heat build-up.  The blanket is also best stored flat or rolled which puts less stress on the coils.

Keep everything and anything off of the blanket.  This includes comforters/bedspreads, blankets, clothing, pets, and yourself.  No sleeping or lounging on top of the blanket either. Weight of any kind may cause the blanket to overheat.  Pet claws can cause punctures, rips, and tears which may expose or break the wiring and create shock and fire hazards.  If pets are a must, consider a low-voltage blanket.

Avoid washing.  Washing machines and electric blankets aren’t a given match.  Always follow the manufactures directions if washing is necessary and do not use the spin cycle.  There’s no guarantee that the internal coils in the blanket won’t get twisted or damaged or that the electrical circuitry will avoid damage in the laundry.

Heat and then sleep.  If the blanket does not have a timer, turn it off before going to sleep.  Most manufactures recommend the same.

Consider the bed.  Never use an electric blanket on a waterbed or adjustable, hospital-style bed.

Mind the cords.  Avoid running cords under the mattress as this creates friction that can damage the cord or trap excess heat.

Electric blankets and throws are great cozy companions but they need to be respected and used with care.  Today’s electric blankets are safer and more energy efficient than those of the past. Many of these innovations were developed as Underwriters Laboratories, an independent product-safety testing organization, came up with stricter safety standards for electric blankets, including warnings on the instructions.  With respect and care, these cozy companions are perfect for deflecting cold rooms and beds.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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First Aid Kits

It is time to put the summer things in storage and one of these things is the first aid kit that I store in our camper. We do not use it often but it is important to have it stocked with useful items. It is easy to find on-line lists of supplies to make up a kit and if you need several kits, it may be less expensive. I just use a plastic storage box for the kits we keep in the camper, concession stand, and out in our farm shop. We do not always consider that we may need to include other items in the kit. Emergency phone numbers like your doctor’s number or the emergency room number at the local hospital are a good idea to include. You may want to add the poison control number if you have small children. A copy of your insurance card or at least the phone number may be useful.

It is important to look through the kit and replace items used over the summer or any medications or creams that have expired. Looking through the kit when I put it away in the fall ensures that our kit is fully stocked when we need it next summer.

 

25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)

1 adhesive cloth tape

A small tube of antibiotic ointment

A package of antiseptic wipes

A small bottle of ibuprofen

An instant cold compress

2 pair of non-latex gloves (size: large)

A small tube of hydrocortisone ointment

Sterile gauze

Tweezers

Flashlight

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Beware of Halloween Decoration Dangers

‘Tis the season to be scary . . . fa, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .

Halloween has become as festive as Christmas with string of lights, blow up decorations, animated displays, fog machines, and other electric-powered decorations.  Any and all create a scare-worthy porch or yard for any trick-or-treaters that dare to ring the doorbell.  But like Christmas decorations, Halloween decorations can be a source of dangers that could spoil the holiday that is suppose to be fun.  Remember a safe celebration is the best celebration.

So as Halloween decorating approaches, here’s some safety tips from Safe Electricity to make sure Halloween is safe and fun for all:

  • Carefully inspect decorations that have been stored for cracking, fraying or bare wires.  Do not use if any of these problems are found as they may cause a shock or start a fire.
  • When replacing or purchasing decorations or cords, make sure they are Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approved and marked for outdoor use.
  • Unless specifically indicated, keep electrical decorations out of water or wet areas.
  • Be mindful of extension cords.  They should not run through water on the ground.  Use only cords rated for outdoor use.
  • Don’t overload plugs or extension cords.  Be sure to use a big enough gauge extension cord to handle the decoration wattage without getting hot.
  • Use insulated staples to hold strings of lights or cords in place.  Fasten securely.
  • Plug outdoor lights and decorations into GFCI outlets (ground fault circuit interrupters).
  • Keep cords away from walkways or anyplace where they may be a potential tripping hazard or entanglement hazard for pets.
  • Consider using a timer to have decorations or lights on for a specified amount of time.  Turn them off while away from the home and before going to bed.

By following basic electrical safety guidelines, you will  avoid real scares or dangerous tricks and keep Halloween a fun and safe event.  Get more safety tips at SafeElectricity.org.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Fire Prevention

I have been thinking more about fire prevention week this year than I have for many years. When our children were young, we made a point of checking smoke detectors, looking at escape routes from the bedrooms, and choosing a meeting place for the family outside of the house. Since we became empty nesters, we have focused a bit less on these safety steps. Now that we have five grandchildren that live nearby and often spend the night, I am thinking more about fire safety at home.

I have spent some time reading the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) website and looking at their fire safety education ideas. I learned that the slogan for Fire Safety Week in 2018 is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware – fire can happen anywhere.” This slogan fits nicely with suggestions from many other parts of society. We do need to be aware of our surroundings. Last night we attended at concert at CY Stephens auditorium on the campus of Iowa State University. Our seats were in the third balcony so we had to climb a significant number of stairs to get to our seats. While we were waiting for the event to begin, I looked at both exits from our seats. I planned a first and then second exit, should that have been necessary. Here in our office, we also have two planned exits should it be necessary for us to evacuate. I know the best exit from all the rooms in our home, and the second choice exit but I do not think that my grandchildren are aware of these exits. Two of our upstairs bedrooms contain a fire ladder and I know that the grandchildren do not know how to operate it.

The NFPA suggest these calls to action:

  • Look for places fire can start
  • Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm
  • Learn two ways out of each room

Before my grandchildren’s next visit, I can look around my home for places a fire could start. I will clean out my dryer vent, make sure I do not have anything flammable near a heat source, and eliminate stacks of old magazines. I will check the batteries in my fire alarms to be sure they are all in working order. I plan to take the grandchildren on a house tour to demonstrate two ways out of every room, especially the upstairs bedrooms. We will also practice meeting up at our designated meeting spot, the big blue machine shed out in our yard. I know I will sleep better after putting my plan into action.

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Gas Leak – How to Detect and What to Do

Millions of Americans use gas (natural or propane, i.e. LP) to heat their homes, heat their water, and cook their food.   Our family is one of them and in addition, a natural gas pipeline crosses our property.  While gas is safe, economical, clean-burning, and a versatile fuel when used properly, it is also highly combustible.  Thus, a gas leak can be a risk of a fire and explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. To help ensure that you live safely with gas, everyone in the family should be aware of the signs of a gas leak, never ignore even the slightest indication of one, and know what to do should there be a leak.  Because of our proximity to a gas line, our gas company provides information periodically on what to know and what to do.  The same precautions apply to propane gas.

Smell.  Because gases are colorless and odorless, a strong odorant that smells like rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or a dead animal is added to alert or help consumers detect a possible leak.  If you aren’t sure of the scent, you can request a free scratch-and-sniff card from you supplier.

Sound.  A hissing or whistling sound near a gas appliance, meter or pipeline is also an indicator of a gas leak.

Air.  Another indicator would be blowing dirt or a breeze coming out of the ground.

Bubbles.  A leak in a gas pipe can sometimes cause bubbling in moist areas around the home.

Discolored or dyeing vegetation.  If you suddenly notice your grass or shrubs have changed color, looking more brown or rusty, that could be a sign of a leak. Plants near a gas leak will quickly become sickly and eventually die.

Feeling ill.   The symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are similar to flu or food poisoning.  You cannot see, taste, or smell CO.

Fire coming out of the ground.

If you suspect or discover a gas leak:

  • Stay calm.
  • Leave the area immediately and evacuate everyone as well as all pets or animals from the home or building. Inhaling high concentrations of gas can lead to asphyxia in which your body is deprived of oxygen.
  • Go to a remote location and call your gas company or supplier. If they can’t be reached, call the fire department.  Program your gas supplier’s number into your cellphone so that it is readily available in an emergency.
  • If gas is blowing, call 911.
  • Move quickly. Don’t stop to look for the leak, open windows, turn switches off, or unplug equipment.  Leave the door open as you leave.
  • Don’t use anything that might create a spark, such as a cellphone, light switch, or garage door opener. These can ignite gases or vapors.
  • Do not return to the building until the gas company or fire department has given you the all-clear or the leak is fixed.

As always, being prepared in case of an emergency is key.  First and foremost, have the number of your gas supplier programmed into your cellphone.  If you don’t have a cellphone, have the number tucked into your wallet so you can quickly dial the number from another phone.  Secondly, know how to turn off your gas should you need to or be asked to do so.  Begin by knowing where your gas meter and/or emergency control valve is located.  For natural gas users, the emergency control valve should be next to the meter.   To turn off the gas supply, simply turn the handle a quarter turn so the lever is crosswise, perpendicular, or at 90 degrees to the upright gas pipe; a wrench may be required to turn the lever. Propane users should locate the main gas supply valve on the propane tank. Close the valve by turning it to the right (clockwise).  If you are unsure about where to find these valves or what to do, contact your supplier and have them show you.  And it is always a good plan to have your gas furnace and other gas appliances checked annually and serviced as needed for proper ventilation.

During winter, keep your gas meter and valve free from snow and ice using a broom, not a shovel, to remove snow or ice.  Make sure outside appliance vents are not blocked by snow and ice. Blocked vents can cause carbon monoxide  to back up into the building or shut down your system.   If your home or business has natural or propane gas appliances, a carbon monoxide detector should be installed.  When a gas appliance malfunctions, it can produce CO, that deadly, odorless, colorless, and tasteless silent killer.  And always, always call 811 before you dig!

Everyone should know how to detect and respond to a gas leak.  Make it part of your family’s emergency response plan.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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