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Staying Safe with Natural Gas

Ask This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey and host Kevin O’Connor discuss how gas regulators work and how their malfunction caused gas explosions in Lawrence, MA


  1. Natural gas is delivered through massive pipelines across the country that reduce pressure as they approach municipalities.
  2. A device called a gas regulator is used to lower the pressure of gas coming into the house without disrupting the gas service of neighbors.
  3. If you ever smell gas in your home, evacuate immediately and call 911.
  4. In the rare event that city officials instruct homeowners to shut off their own gas, like what happened in Lawrence, go to the gas meter and look for a shutoff valve. Typically, it’s to the left of the meter on the pipe coming up out of the ground from the street.
  5. Using a wrench, turn the shutoff valve so that it is perpendicular to the gas pipe. Then evacuate the building.
  6. In all other circumstances, do not touch the gas meter. Only allow a licensed professional to do anything involving gas lines and appliances in your home.

Circumstances such as what happened in Lawrence, MA are extremely rare, and Richard stresses that only a licensed professional should handle any gas appliances or gas work in a home. However, in case of a suspected gas emergency, evacuate the house immediately and call 911. Follow the instructions in the video above only if instructed to do so by an official.