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Safety · Public Officials

Every day, over two million miles of underground pipeline safely transports and distributes natural gas to more than 68 million consumers in the United States. From design and construction to operations and maintenance, natural gas companies set high standards to keep this pipeline system incident free.

One of the greatest obstacles to the safe delivery of natural gas, however, is happening throughout the nation: unauthorized digging. Even minor contact with a pipeline, such as a small dent, chip or scratch, can cause major damage down the road if not professionally repaired. Ironically, this safety threat is also the most preventable.

Call before you dig!
As a public official, you can do your part by promoting safe digging throughout your community. By law, individuals must contact the Ohio Utilities Protection Service (OUPS) at 8-1-1, at least two working days prior to any digging, ditching, drilling, leveling or plowing activity. Representatives from the appropriate utility companies will then come to the location and designate nearby pipelines with brightly colored, highly visible markers, free of charge. To learn more about OUPS click here.

If you ever suspect unauthorized digging, please contact the natural gas company listed on the nearest pipeline marker. If no name is listed, call 9-1-1.

Encroachment and natural gas
In recent years, unauthorized digging has become an even greater safety threat due to encroachment. While most transmission pipelines are buried in rural, undeveloped areas, the growing population and booming economy have prompted more construction activity in and around these areas. To protect the safety of residents and the environment, the land surrounding a pipeline, also referred to as a Right Of Way (ROW), must be kept clear of trees, buildings and other structures. For more information about ROWs and easements, click here.

Consult the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS)
It’s a good idea for public officials to familiarize themselves with the pipelines located in their community. Fortunately, government officials and natural gas pipeline operators can access the NPMS. A joint project of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Office of Pipeline Safety, the NPMS is a geographic information system that allows users to view natural gas pipelines in any given state and find out the name of the company that operates a particular pipeline.

Know the signs of a natural gas leak
Everyone, including public officials, should know the signs of a natural gas leak:

Use your senses of sight, hearing and smell, along with any of the following signs, to alert yourself to the presence of a gas leak:

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Smell
  • The distinctive odor of natural gas
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Look
  • A damaged connection to a gas appliance
  • Dirt or water being blown into the air
  • Dead or dying vegetation (in an otherwise moist area) over or near pipeline areas
  • A fire or explosion near a pipeline
  • Exposed pipeline after an earthquake, fire, flood or other disaster
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Listen
  • An unusual sound, such as a hissing, whistling, or roaring sound near a gas line or appliance

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It makes sense to trust your senses.

If you notice any of the above signs, do not try to stop or repair the leak yourself or use anything that might create a spark, such as a cell phone. Instead, leave the area immediately and call your local natural gas company and 9-1-1 for emergency response.

To learn more…
For more information on what natural gas companies do to keep our pipeline system safe for everyone, including information on emergency plans, please contact your local natural gas company.

What to do if you suspect a gas leak

If you smell a natural gas odor, hear the hissing sound of gas escaping or see other signs of a leak:

  • REMAIN calm.
  • DON'T light a match, candle or cigarette.
  • DON'T turn electrical appliances or lights on or off or use any device that could cause a spark.
  • IMMEDIATELY EVACUATE the area, and from a safe location, call your local natural gas company and 9-1-1 for emergency response.