Avoid a disaster: Call 811 and know what's below
Do you know where utility lines are buried on your property? Although accidents are relatively rare, damage from digging is the most common cause of underground natural gas leaks.
Three steps you must follow before you dig:
- Call 811 before you dig. 811 is the national phone number that initiates the process of locating and marking the underground utility lines in your yard or at your job. Dial 811 at least three business days before you dig.
- Wait the required time for facilities to be marked. Call center personnel notify area utilities such as Alliant Energy to mark the approximate locations of buried gas or electric lines with high-visibility safety paint and/or flags. There is no charge for this locating service.
- Respect the marks, then dig with care. When you start digging, try to stay as least 18 inches away from the marked lines. Hand digging with extreme caution is required when digging within the 18-inch tolerance zone.
For more information on 811, visit the national 811 website or contact your state’s local center.
- Make sure gas appliances are turned all the way off.
- Smell gas? Move fast. IMMEDIATELY evacuate everyone from the building or area.
- Leave the door open as you exit.
- Leave the area and warn others to stay way until Alliant Energy allows you to return.
- Call 1-800-ALLIANT (800-255-4268) from a remote location.
- If you hear gas hissing or blowing, call 911.
- Do not try to find or repair the leak.
- Do not start an engine of any kind.
- Do not strike matches or create a flame of any kind.
- Do not use a telephone or cell phone (these can ignite gases or vapors).
- Do not turn on or off any light switches, garage door openers or other electrical switches (these also can ignite airborne gases).
- Do not attempt to extinguish a burning gas leak.
- A qualified professional should check your gas appliances annually. Inspections keep gas appliances safe and efficient, and they reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Snow and ice can damage gas meters and pipes. Use a broom to keep gas service equipment clear during the winter.
- Vents for gas appliances must be cleared following a major snow or ice storm to enable proper venting and prevent carbon monoxide accumulation.
- Never place a fire pit above a buried line! If the fire gets too hot, it could cause the gas pipeline below it to leak or melt. Call 811 to have the underground lines located on your property.
- Indicate the approximate location of buried pipelines
- Provide a toll-free number 1-800-ALLIANT (800-255-4268) to report problems
- Are typically placed at public road crossings, fence lines and street intersections
In most cases, there are not pipeline markers for the natural gas distribution lines inside urban service territories. To identify where any type of pipeline is located, call 811 before you dig.
Visit the National Pipeline Mapping System at npms.phmsa.dot.gov to learn who operates transmission pipelines in your area.
Because natural gas has no scent, a strong odorant that smells like rotten eggs is added to help you detect a possible gas leak. If you suspect a gas leak, call 1-800-ALLIANT (800-255-4268) immediately. We will investigate a gas leak for free.
Properties of natural gas
The unintentional release of natural gas is dangerous to you, the public, and could result in fires, explosions, injury or death. Always use extreme caution near a gas leak and recognize the possible hazards.
- Vapors: Lighter than air, colorless and tasteless.
- Health hazards: Extremely high concentrations may cause irritation or asphyxiation.
- Fire hazards: Extremely flammable and easily ignited by heat, sparks or flames. Explosive in enclosed areas.
Call Alliant Energy if you:
- Hear hissing, whistling or roaring sounds near a gas appliance, meter or pipeline.
- See blowing dirt, bubbling water or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area. Or if you see a gas meter dial that continues to move after all natural gas appliances and equipment have been shut off.
- Smell the odor of rotten eggs. If you don’t know the scent, contact us for a free scratch-and-sniff card.
Individuals with a known inability to smell should consider purchasing a natural gas detector. Some people may not be able to smell the natural gas odor because the odor is being masked or hidden by other scents, such as cooking or chemical odors.
Olfactory fatigue is another reason people might not be able to smell a gas leak. This is the temporary inability to distinguish an odor after a prolonged exposure to it. In addition, certain conditions in pipes and soil can cause odor fade (which is loss of odorant), making it undetectable by smell.
Natural gas is extracted from the earth. It travels to your community through underground transmission pipelines. The National Transportation Safety Board says pipelines are the safest way to transport gas.
When the natural gas reaches your community, a local distribution company such as Alliant Energy reduces the gas pressure and adds an odorant. Odorant gives natural gas the rotten egg smell that helps you to detect a gas leak.
Inside your community, the natural gas travels through pipelines called “mains.” They are often buried underneath or along streets. From there, a smaller service line, approximately ½ inch to 1 inch in diameter, brings the natural gas to your meter. Service lines are buried in yards.