Preventing Gas Explosions

By Peter DePaolis

In November, an Ohio woman was hospitalized following a gas explosion that destroyed at least two buildings. The explosion was caused by a ruptured gas line owned by Tennessee Gas Pipeline. Residents up to 12 miles away reported feeling and hearing the explosion. According to a CBS News report in September 2010, explosions involving natural gas pipelines are not uncommon, “occurring nearly every other day, and causing millions of dollars in property damage and several deaths each year.” If you were injured in a gas explosion, an experienced Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney can determine whether you have grounds for filing a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for your injuries.

Dangers of Gas Explosions

According to the CBS News report, an average of 155 incidents related to natural gas distribution pipelines occur each year, as shown by data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). In 2009 alone, there were:

  • 158 incidents reported to the PHMSA involving distribution pipelines, causing
  • 10 fatalities
  • 50 injuries
  • Nearly $32 million in property damage

Gas explosions can also occur in the workplace and home, where common appliances like water heaters and ranges may use natural gas. In May, two homes were destroyed by natural gas explosions within days of each other in the DC area, sending at least two people to the hospital with serious injuries and causing nearly $900,000 in property damage.

Preventing Gas Explosions

To prevent gas explosions involving pipelines, companies should:

  • Use markers to warn people of buried pipes and watch for signs of digging along the pipeline route
  • Regularly check the pipelines for leaks, corrosion or damage
  • Install methane detectors
  • Monitor pressure in the lines
  • Conduct valve checks and leak surveys

To prevent gas explosions at home and in the workplace, consumers and businesses can:

  • Maintain gas appliances and have them checked regularly by professionals
  • Install a natural gas detector in a home or office
  • Regularly test detectors and check their batteries
  • Install detectors where gas is likely to accumulate (like a basement) and where people will be able to hear the alarm

When a Gas Leak Is Detected

Although natural gas itself has no odor, gas companies add a warning scent to it, so people can smell a gas leak. If you smell natural gas in your home or office or a gas detector alarm goes off:

  • Leave the building immediately
  • Do not turn on lights, use an inside phone to call 9-1-1, or do anything else that might cause a spark
  • Do not re-enter the building until given the all-clear by the gas company

No matter how safe we try to be with natural gas, accidents can still happen. If you are the victim of a gas explosion, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact a qualified Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer today to learn about your legal rights.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.