With winter weather fully upon the state, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission urges South Dakotans to keep natural gas meters and appliance vents clear of snow and ice.
“Accumulation of snow and ice on gas meters has the potential to contribute to leaks and malfunctions,” stated PUC Chairperson Kristie Fiegen. “We want every South Dakotan to be safe and warm this season. Regularly checking to ensure snow and ice is not building up around meters and vents should be part of your regular winter home maintenance,” she continued.
Gas meters are designed to withstand extreme temperatures and weather conditions, but snow and ice still have the potential to do serious damage. To remove frozen layers that have gathered on or near important infrastructure, try using a broom, snow brush or your hand. Never kick the meter to break up or clear ice. Do not use snow blowers, blades or shovels to complete the task either. If you find the ice buildup is extremely heavy and you are unable to remove it yourself, call your natural gas provider for assistance.
“Gas equipment requires adequate airflow for safe combustion and proper venting of appliances to prevent a dangerous carbon monoxide situation. When frozen precipitation accumulates on a meter, it can cause the regulator or meter to malfunction, can lead to a gas leak, and is a serious safety risk,” explained PUC Vice Chairman Gary Hanson.
Often, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the warning signs that accompany a natural gas leak is the strong odor of natural gas. There are other signs to be aware of; seeing a mist, white cloud, or dense fog and hearing a hissing or whistling sound coming from the meter should also be red flags. Any of these should alert you to a potentially hazardous situation, lead you to immediately leave the building or area and then call for help. It is also a good idea to consider devices, like carbon monoxide and gas detectors, that can be installed to alert to danger you may not have noticed.
“Another crucial measure parents can take right now is to sit down with kids and talk about natural gas safety. Explain that natural gas smells like rotten eggs. Let them know if they smell gas, they should leave fast. Establish a plan, including where to go and who to call, if something were to happen while a parent is not home,” recommended PUC Commissioner Chris Nelson.
Protecting your natural gas meter is essential to ensuring your family and home stay as safe as possible this snowy season. Even without the serious safety risk of natural gas leaks, accumulated snow and ice on meters and vents can lead to service interruptions and affect how well your appliances and furnaces operate.
For more tips about natural gas safety, visit the PUC website at puc.sd.gov/consumer/ngmetersafety.aspx.