The March 12 tragedy in East Harlem has raised many concerns about New York City’s aging infrastructure, and the potential dangers we face from crumbling bridges, water mains, sewer pipes and gas lines. Although the exact cause of the explosion is still under investigation, this disaster has brought potential dangers to light.
More than half of New York City’s gas mains were installed over 60 years ago and are made of unprotected cast iron, which is prone to corrosion. We hope that there will never be another explosion like this, but we should be aware of what to do if we smell gas.
News reports are telling people who smell gas to immediately call Con Ed and/or 311, but what they fail to tell you is do not to use your home or mobile phone while still in the vicinity of the gas leak.
Here’s what you should do:
- If the odor is strong, leave the premises immediately, informing others in the building of the potential leak — but not by phone or by e-mail. If you have prepared an emergency go bag, be sure to grab it on your way out. Should there be an explosion or fire, you may be in need of shelter.
- Do not smoke or light lighters or matches.
- Do not use your telephone. Do not switch on electrical appliances, lights, or even a flashlight in the area where you smell gas. Electrical currents in switches and telephones may spark an explosion.
- If the odor is faint, open windows to air out the area before leaving.
- When safely out of the area, call Con Edison at 1-800-350-9346. And hope they get there quickly.