Natural Gas Safety

Important Safety Information about Natural Gas Lines

Natural gas is clean, convenient, and efficient which makes it the country’s most popular home heating fuel.  Most natural gas pipelines are buried underground.  This is not only for safety reasons, but also to protect pipelines from the weather and ensure reliable service for all customers.

In our community, underground pipelines provide natural gas service to homes, businesses, schools, and industries.  Hartselle Utilities purchases natural gas from major transportation pipeline companies at each of our two gate stations.  It is then distributed to pressure regulating stations, then through distribution mains and service lines to your gas meter and into your home or business.

At Hartselle Utilities, our main goal is to deliver natural gas reliably and safely to our customers.  As your neighbors and part of your community, we know the importance for everyone to be well informed and know how to respond in case of a natural gas emergency.

A public safety flyer is mailed out to all HU customers in accordance with Hartselle Utilities’ Public Awareness Plan (PAP).  Per the PAP, the owner of each parcel within 660’ of a HU gas main will receive a copy of the flyer and some people who own more than one parcel and may receive more than one mailer.  Click here to download a current copy of the HU Natural Gas Public Safety flyer.

Pipeline Location Information

Natural gas pipelines will sometimes be marked with signs.  Since pipelines are buried underground, the markers are used to indicate the pipeline’s approximate location.  The signs generally will be located at a major roadway and railroad crossing and at intervals along major roadways.  Information on the sign will include the telephone number for reporting pipeline emergencies to Hartselle Utilities and the toll free telephone number for the Alabama One Call Center (Alabama 811).

Are pipeline markers and signs always placed on top of the pipeline?  Not always.  Markers indicate the general location of the pipeline.  They cannot be relied upon to indicate the exact location of the pipeline they mark, nor the depth of the pipeline or the number of pipelines in the vicinity.

Damage Prevention

The greatest risk to underground natural gas pipelines is from accidental damage during excavation.  Even minor damage such as a dent, scrape, crease, or gouge to a pipeline coating may cause a leak or failure.  Call Before you Dig.  It’s the law!

Notify Hartselle Utilities by calling Alabama 811 by dialing 811 or (800) 292-8525.  The call is FREE!  Alabama 811 will let us know who you are and where you intend to dig.

We ask for your cooperation and participation in this program to help prevent damage to underground utilities and promote public safety.

What to do if you Damage or Disturb a Natural Gas Line?

Even if you cause what appears to be only minor damage to the pipeline, immediately contact Hartselle Utilities.  Even minor damage such as a dent, scrape, crease, or gouge to a pipeline coating may cause a potential leak or future failure.  It is imperative that the pipeline is inspected and any damages to the line are repaired by Hartselle Utilities.  Do not attempt to make repairs to the line yourself.

Leak Recognition and Response

Natural Gas is one of the safest, most reliable, and environmental friendly fuels to use today, but leaks can occur.  There are three key ways to recognize a natural gas leak:
Blowing dirt, bubbling creeks or ponds, dry spots in moist areas, or dead plants surrounded by green, live plants also may indicate a natural gas leak.
An unusual hissing sound near gas lines or appliances may indicate a natural gas leak.
In its raw state, natural gas is colorless and odorless.  Hartselle Utilities adds a substance called “mercaptan” to create the familiar, rotten-egg like odor you associate with natural gas.  You should take action even if you detect only a faint odor of natural gas in the air.

If you Detect a Natural Gas Leak

  • Turn off and abandon any motorized equipment.
  • If in a building, exit the building immediately.
  • Call Hartselle Utilities immediately at (256) 773-2588. In the event of a fire or explosion dial 911.  Never assume someone else will report the condition.
  • Provide the exact location of the possible leak to the operator.
  • Avoid flames or operating electrical appliances or equipment. DO NOT smoke or light matches.
  • Warn others to stay away from the area.

Emergency Response Plan

Hartselle Utilities works in coordination with emergency responders, the State and local agencies to prevent and prepare for emergencies.  We maintain up to date operations and maintenance procedures as well as emergency response procedures which are made available to  local and State authorities.

We Need Your Help

The Nation’s infrastructures, including pipelines, are a matter of national security.  If you witness suspicious activity on a pipeline right-of-way, please report it to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible or you may call Hartselle Utilities at (256) 773-2588.  Threat advisories may be found at the Department of Homeland Security website at

More About Natural Gas

When handled properly, natural gas is a clean and safe form of energy. Appliances that are installed correctly and maintained according to the manufacturer’s guidelines will provide many years of worry-free service.

Several characteristics of natural gas make this form of energy very safe. First, unlike other hydrocarbon fuels, natural gas is lighter than air. This allows natural gas to dissipate into the air should a leak occur. Propane and other hydrocarbon fuels are heavier than air and will “settle” in lower areas if a leak occurs.

Natural gas also has a much higher ignition temperature than other hydrocarbon fuels. Natural gas ignites at 1,200°F compared to ignition temperatures as low as 700°F for other fuels.

In order for natural gas to ignite, there must be a limited concentration of natural gas mixed with air. The explosive range for natural gas in air is 4 to 14%. That is, there must be a mixture of 4 to 14% natural gas mixed with air before ignition will take place. If there is more than 14% natural gas mixed with air, ignition will not take place because the mixture is “too rich” or contains more fuel than needed.

In its native form, natural gas is odorless, colorless and tasteless. Hartselle Utilities injects a very detectable odor into the natural gas before it enters the local pipeline system. This odorant has a smell resembling the smell of rotten eggs. The level of odorant is maintained so the smell is detectable well before natural gas reaches the flammability range described above.

If the gas odor is strong:

  • Do not light matches.
  • Do not turn on or off or operate any equipment.
  • Advise all occupants to leave the house or building immediately.
  • Do not re-enter the home or business until the Gas Department says it is safe to do so.

Carbon Monoxide

Often called the “Silent Killer”, carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas produced when any fuel, such as charcoal, gasoline, wood, or natural gas is burned. If natural gas appliances are not maintained, adjusted and operated properly, carbon monoxide can be produced. If the burner of a natural gas appliance is properly adjusted and has an adequate air supply, the usual byproducts are carbon dioxide and water vapor. Carbon monoxide is absorbed by red blood cells in the lungs while displacing the oxygen in the blood stream, usually, unknowingly to the victim. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms are flu-like and include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness and sleepiness.

If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, seek medical assistance immediately and move the victim to a well-ventilated area. Be sure to open the doors to help ventilate the area.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:

  • Make sure all natural gas appliances, such as the water heater and space heaters are vented outside.
  • Inspect and clean the vents annually.
  • Examine the flame as it burns; a properly adjusted burner will produce a steady blue flame with very small amounts of yellow or orange. If the flame is yellow or orange, call a licensed appliance repair service to have the equipment adjusted.

Safety & Wise Use Tips

  • Never store flammable materials near a natural gas appliance.
  • Always follow manufacturer’s instructions when operating or doing work on gas appliances.
  • Keep burners on all natural gas appliances clean.
  • Make sure flames burn blue. A yellow flame indicates inefficient burning and can be hazardous.
  • If the odor of natural gas is detected, ventilate the building. If the odor is very strong, get out of the building. Do not light matches or operate any equipment including electrical switches or light switches which could cause a spark. Use a neighbor’s phone to call the Natural Gas Department to report a natural gas leak.
  • Have the furnace or central heating unit checked at least once a year, before the heating season, to ensure it is operating efficiently.
  • Turn off the furnace pilot light during the summer.
  • Do not set the thermostat at a warmer setting than normal when the heat is first turned on. It will not warm up any faster and may cause the customer to forget to reset to normal setting.
  • Clean or replace heating system filters at least once a month. A good reminder is to replace the filter when paying the utility bill.
  • Heat only the rooms you use.
  • Make sure the temperature setting on the water heater is no higher than 140 degrees.
  • Adjust the flame on the burner on the range to the size of the pan being used so it does not heat the air around the pan.
  • When buying new gas appliances, look for ones which have electronic ignitors instead of pilot lights.