TERRE HAUTE, ind. (WTHI) - A gas leak on 6th and Ohio Street in Downtown Terre Haute had a business evacuated for most of the day Thursday.
This is actually a common concern for fire departments and the gas company.
The smell of rotten eggs. It's a tell-tale sign of one dangerous element. And one that can pop up at any moment's notice.
Evacuation is the first step after a natural gas leak.
The fire department is usually who responds first when there's a gas leak.
"They put a chemical in it to give it that nasty rotten egg smell, so you know you have a leak," said Chief Jeff Fisher, Terre Haute Fire Department.
Chief Fisher said natural gas is dangerous, even for first responders. You could die if near it too long.
"It keeps oxygen from going to your brain and other organs. There's no oxygen in natural gas, so it eliminates all the oxygen in your bloodstream," said Chief Fisher.
But the biggest concern with natural gas leaks? Explosions.
"Natural gas is highly flammable and can explode. So the smallest spark can set it off, especially if there's a high concentration," said Fisher.
"Natural gas is a very safe fuel. But if it leaks inside an unvented area for hours, it can be explosive," said Chase Kelley, Vectren Corporation.
So they air on the side of caution by using a gas monitoring device.
"This will confirm if we do have one. Gives us a reading of ten percent of the lower explosive limit of methane so we can confirm there is a gas leak…it'll alarm this way, flash lights and flash which sensor has been engaged," said Captain Fred Hamblen, Terre Haute Fire Department.
The gas company is immediately notified by the fire department. Vectren says 80 to 90 percent of gas leaks are caused by third party damage.
That's why they want to make sure people call before they dig.
"People just don't realize all the infrastructure that's below their feet and unfortunately that can be a huge risk," said Kelley.
Both the fire department and Vectren say to immediately evacuate the building if you suspect there's a leak.
Wait until you're a good distance away before using your phone to call 911. And always call 811 before you dig.
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