Gas Safety: Working at Home

""Did you know that digging-related damage remains the leading cause of Natural Gas pipeline incidents? 

Remember to call 811 before you dig.

Ensuring the safety of the community is a top priority for the City of Palo Alto, and it conducts ongoing and proactive safety efforts that include leak detection surveys, pipeline upgrades and replacements, pipeline corrosion control, 24/7 customer response, and promotion of gas safety awareness and education to residents and businesses in Palo Alto.

The most important safety tip, however, is if you smell a hint of natural gas, leave the premises and call the City’s dispatch center at (650) 329-2579, or if there is a significant smell of gas all around the area, leave the area on foot and call 911. For more information on natural gas safety, please review our natural gas safety brochure.

"Safety is everyone’s responsibility. The City of Palo Alto is grateful both to its customers and employees for working together to make sure that we are all safe," says Ed Shikada, Utilities Director.

The City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) natural gas utility has a broad program to make sure that you and the whole system are safe.    CPAU's ongoing safety program has multiple components, including:

Proactive Leak Surveys conducted to detect and repair damage before problems develop. During 2009, CPAU completed its annual walking survey to check for leaks of all 19,311 gas service lines in the City. In addition, an annual mobile survey of all 205 miles of City gas main pipes was conducted. These surveys find few leaks, all of which are repaired quickly and within the timelines required by the federal Department of Transportation. Of the City’s 23,502 installed gas meters, fewer than 2.5% needed to be leak-tested and repaired. The City owns and maintains approximately 70 miles of steel gas mains, all of which are 12 inches or smaller in diameter and operate at a maximum pressure of 37.5 pounds per square inch.

Proactive Line Upgrade and Replacement. The City of Palo Alto is one of leading the natural gas utilities in the industry in aggressively replacing its natural gas lines. As a proactive measure to provide safe service to homes and avoid leaks in the system, CPAU replaces gas lines in the city at the accelerated rate of 6 miles per year including the replacement of 600 service lines every year.

Cathodic Protection to control the corrosion of steel pipe lines. Corrosion of steel lines could lead to gas leaks, which could result in dangerous situations. To ensure your safety, CPAU staff members follow routes each month to check the steel system and to ensure that corrosion protection is working. CPAU currently protects 69.2 miles of steel gas mains and 1,152 steel gas services. All steel gas pipes and metallic components owned and operated by CPAU are coated and wrapped to minimize corrosion.

Shut-off Valves.
CPAU has over 2,900 isolation valves in the gas distribution system. These valves can stop gas flow to individual City blocks. All gas services have shut-off valves at each customer’s meter. If needed, the utility can isolate individual blocks of the system with existing valves or isolate from PG&E supplies to the City at CPAU receiving stations.

Customer Call Response System through which CPAU field representatives were dispatched to handle over 7,000 utilities service requests in 2009. About 45% of these requests were regarding natural gas issues most of which concerned pilot light re-lights and new gas meter installations. Customer Service Representatives, who handle over 36,380 calls per year, are trained to answer natural gas safety questions, and dispatchers are available 24/7 to respond to customers’ safety concerns when they smell gas.

Promoting Gas Safety in the Community. Stemming from the City’s general concern for the safety of its residents, businesses, contractors and neighboring communities, CPAU sends out multiple gas safety outreach pieces each year and conducts an annual telephone survey to see whether customers understand what to do to stay safe around natural gas. The most recent annual telephone survey, completed earlier this month, included a randomly selected statistical sample of about 7,500 CPAU customers plus an equal number of non-customers for a total of about 15,000 calls. The results from these annual surveys guide the development of natural gas safety education programs for the upcoming year.

For more information about safety programs at CPAU, visit the Utilities Safety Information page.