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Gas safety explained

Earlier this year, ER24 paramedics assessed around 170 people after a suspected gas leak at a student residence in Parktown, Johannesburg. Many were complaining of shortness of breath, and more than 60 students were hospitalised for further treatment.

According to ER24 Communications Officer Russel Meiring, gas leaks are often not detected in time. “That’s why it’s very important to ensure all the connections of your gas equipment are secure and tightened properly,” he says. Natural gas and LPG is highly flammable, and in addition to posing a serious fire and explosion threat, can cause poisoning if not managed properly.

Grant Stewart, ER24 branch manager at the North Metropole, Western Cape, says gas leaks are generally caused by loosely fitted, faulty gas equipment that is not properly maintained. “Tell-tale signs can include an odd smell in the home, dead or dying plants, and hissing sounds from gas equipment,” he adds. “Gas flames from a heater or stove are mostly blue. However, when there is a leakage, the flames may become more yellow and orange than blue. This is another clear sign of a potential gas leak.”

Physical symptoms you may experience include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, spontaneous headaches, flu-like symptoms, difficulty breathing, and irritation in your eyes and throat.

If you suspect a gas leak, evacuate your home immediately, with all family members and pets. “Do not light a flame, do not attempt to repair the leak yourself, and do not wait in your home for assistance or emergency services as you may succumb to the gas and fall unconscious,” says Meiring. “It’s recommended that you leave all doors and windows open so gas can escape.”

Call ER24’s emergency services to the scene, as paramedics will be able to assess the situation and use specialised breathing apparatus and other medical interventions if necessary.

The best way to prevent a gas leak is to ensure gas cylinders and equipment are installed properly and serviced regularly by accredited and qualified gas installers.