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What you should do in a gas or electricity emergency

Find out what you should do if there's a gas or electrical emergency in your home.

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We think of our homes as safe havens, yet many emergencies and accidents happen indoors.

There are a number of things which could go wrong with your gas or electricity supply, such as an explosion, a gas leak, a fire or a power cut

It's therefore a good idea to find out what to do if there is a gas or electrical emergency at your property.

There are a number of things which could go wrong with your gas or electricity supply, such as an explosion, a gas leak, a fire or a power cut.

Here we take a look at some of the most common emergencies, and what you should do if they happen at your property.

Gas

Gas emergencies

Gas leak:

Gas is used to heat millions of UK homes and to power a range of appliances. Many of us will never encounter a serious problem with our gas supply, but, if things do go wrong, it's important to know how to keep yourself and your family safe.

If you smell gas or suspect a gas leak, open windows and doors to get plenty of fresh air into your home. Make sure all appliances are switched off and, if you can, turn the gas off at the mains.

It's essential not to turn lights on or off or switch on any electrical appliances, as this could cause an explosion. Smoking or lighting a match or other naked flame could also trigger an explosion, so make sure everyone at the property is aware of the dangers.

Do not try to investigate or fix the problem yourself. Call the National Gas Emergency Line on 0800-111999 and wait outside for help to arrive. Calls are free and trained operators man the line 24 hours a day.

Do NOT use mobile phones inside the premises - go outside and call the emergency team from safety.

Gas explosions:

Most gas leaks do not lead to an explosion and are dealt with safely. But it's essential to follow the advice above to prevent a gas explosion happening.

Get people and pets out of the house and do not flick any electrical switches on or off. Turn off the gas appliance emitting the leak or, if possible, the mains supply, and call the emergency helpline.

Carbon monoxide poisoning:

Carbon monoxide (CO) is often described as the silent killer as it's colourless, odourless and tasteless yet causes up to 50 deaths each year in the UK.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when gas appliances don't fully burn their fuel or when chimneys, vents and flues become blocked.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea, dizziness, headaches and tiredness. There are a number of ways to prevent poisoning, and potentially save lives, including:

  • Ensuring all gas appliances are installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer
  • Ensuring chimneys, flues and appliances are checked annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer
  • Buying and installing an audible carbon monoxide alarm. If carbon monoxide is detected the alarm goes off so, as with a smoke detector, it's important to test the alarm regularly and replace batteries as required
Electric

Electrical emergencies

Electric shock:

This can occur when an electrical appliance, cord or extension lead is faulty or gets wet. Faulty wiring can also lead to electric shock, and shocks can range from mild to very serious.

If you are with someone who suffers an electric shock, the electricity current can pass from them to you.

Unplug the appliance or turn off the main electricity supply at the fuse box. If this is not possible, push the electrical appliance away from the injured person with a wooden broom handle or rolled up newspaper before making contact with them.

Phone the emergency services and make them aware that you are dealing with an electrical emergency.

Once the source of electricity has been cut off, you might need to start resuscitation if the injured person is unconscious or not breathing. The 999 operator will be able to advise you on what to do.

The advice above relates to electrical incidents in the home. In a high voltage emergency - such as if you suspect a person has received a shock from overhead power cables - DO NOT approach them under any circumstances.

Keep as far away as possible and contact the National Electricity Emergency Line on 0800-404090. Warn anyone else in the vicinity to stay away and wait for an engineer and emergency services to arrive.

Be prepared for a power cut by keeping a torch or candles in a handy place in case you need them

Power cut:

If you lose power in your home, check your trip switch. This should be located on or next to your fuse box and is designed to cut off the electricity supply if an appliance overheats or too many appliances are in use at one time.

If the trip switch is turned off, flick it back on and switch on all the appliances in use one by one. If the trip switch is triggered again, you will know which appliance has caused it.

In the event of total power loss, check with neighbours to see if the whole street is affected or whether it's just your property. Call your supplier's emergency line to notify them and give them as much information as possible.

Be prepared for a power cut by keeping a torch or candles in a handy place in case you need them. Make sure lit candles are secure and take extra care of naked flames if children or pets are with you. If it's cold, try to keep everyone in one room and wrap up under plenty of blankets.

Turn appliances off, keeping one light switch on so you know when the power has returned. When the power comes back on, check fridges and freezers in case the contents have defrosted.

Further information about gas and electricity safety in the home is available on the National Grid website.

By Rebecca Lees