Natural Gas and Other Fuels

Many modern homes contain gas-fired appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, and cooking surfaces. Gas used as fuel is always flammable and may ignite in the presence of an ignition source such as a lighter or other spark-producing device. Flammable fuel service to a home may include natural gas, propane, or fuel oil. Each service may become damaged as a result of physical damage or displacement of the home from an earthquake. Such damage may cause a fuel leak in the home that may be difficult to detect. 

An inadvertent ignition source or spark may ignite a fuel leak, resulting in an explosion and further damage to the structure and injury to the occupants. As a result, the home distribution and fuel delivery systems should be inspected immediately following an event that resulted in or could have resulted in physical damage to the piping or fuel distribution structure inside or immediately outside the home. 

Such an inspection should occur with the power disconnected and should include the use of a direct-reading combustible gas or volatile organic compound (VOC) detector. The inspection should start at the fuel delivery source, such as a gas meter, or propane storage tank shut-off.

Here are some useful resources to recognize and address these kinds of hazards:

  • Consumer Product Safety Commission
    Consumer Safety Pamphlet
    Information about various hazards associated with natural gas appliances.

  • American Gas Association
    Kids & Natural Gas Safety
    Video aimed at educating youth on natural gas safety in the home.  

Technical resources for the IH include: