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Storms, Floods and Natural Gas Outages

Major Storms and Flooding Can Impact Natural Gas Service

The proximity of many BGE customers to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries makes flooding a possibility when major storms cause coastal surges and heavy rainfall.  As floodwaters rise, it raises the potential for water to penetrate the natural gas system in low-lying portions of the region and cause customers to lose gas service.  Additionally, heavy rainfall and rushing water can erode the ground around buried utilities.  This can potentially cause breaks in gas mains, making it possible for water to get into the system and result in customers losing gas service.

Understanding the gas outage restoration process…

In order for BGE to safely repair any damage and to remove water from the system if flooding has occurred, BGE may have to isolate the affected gas mains and shut off gas service to customers served by the system before repairs can be made to the damaged piping. Gas mechanics will need to access each gas meter in the area, located either inside or outside homes and businesses, to physically disconnect gas service. We will need to work with customers to gain access to meters.  In locations where a customer is not available to provide access, BGE will work with the local fire or police department and a locksmith to gain access to the property and shut off gas service at the meter.
 
The time it takes to restore gas service depends on the amount of damage to gas mains and the extent of any necessary repairs. After flooding, repairs are subject to water receding and the time it takes to pump all water and debris from gas pipes. Additionally, the restoration timeframe is influenced by how long it takes to access all affected customer properties and disconnect service to gas meters.
 
Once all meters have been disconnected and the gas mains are repaired and purged, BGE can begin the process of introducing gas back to the mains and restoring gas service to individual customers.  This again requires a gas mechanic to access the meter to restore service and relight gas appliances.  However, gas service cannot be restored if water has entered a customer’s piping and appliances. Customer-owned equipment such as piping and gas-fed appliances located after the gas meter must be inspected and repaired by the customer’s licensed plumber before BGE can fully restore service.
 

What you can do to minimize the effects of a natural gas outage…

  • Ensure that gas equipment is always accessible.  Ensure a minimum of three feet of clear space around each meter, and ensure that the underground service line that leads to the meter is not obstructed by structures such as porches, decks, paving, building additions or other structures.
  • Make sure that customer-owned gas piping and equipment located after the meter, both aboveground and buried, is well maintained and regularly inspected for corrosion and leaks by a state certified plumber. If such piping is not maintained, it may corrode and become a potential source for a leak.
  • Clear any drains located near meters (interior and exterior) and make sure that sump pumps in basements are in good working condition to help keep water away from gas meters.
  • Immediately report abnormal gas pressure, a loss of gas service, or water in pipes or gas-fed appliances to BGE at 1-877-778-2222.
  • If water levels were enough to cover the gas meter, call us to check your meter and regulator.
  • Do not attempt to place natural gas appliances back in service if you believe they have come in contact with water or have been damaged.  Keep contact information for qualified plumbers available. The equipment must be inspected and serviced by a qualified plumbing contractor before we can restore your gas service.  Equipment must be checked, cleaned, repaired and all gas pipes pressure tested to ensure they are dry and not clogged with mud or debris.
  • Contact BGE to arrange an inspection of its gas equipment if flood waters have shifted your home or caused other stresses to the gas pipes, creating the possibility for a natural gas leak.
  • During a gas outage, make every effort to be available or to make your meter accessible to allow a gas mechanic to physically disconnect service at the meter and eventually restore service and relight appliances.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to operate gas valves on the meter or tamper with the meter in any way.  Contact BGE to inspect and disconnect or reconnect the meter.
  • If you suspect a gas leak, do not attempt to find the source of the leak or to repair a leak.  Leave the area or premises immediately and from a safe place contact BGE at 1-877-778-2222 to report the leak.  For additional gas safety information, visit bge.com/naturalgassafety
  • Even when dealing with natural gas issues in floods and storms, you should always keep electrical safety in mind:.
    • Do not enter a room with standing water, particularly if it covers electrical outlets or cords or appliances that plugged into outlets.
    • Ensure that the electrical system is shut off before entering a flooded room or basement.
    • Do not attempt to shut off your electrical system if you have to stand in water or on a wet floor to do so.
    • Do not turn on any lights or appliances affected by a flood without having a comprehensive inspection performed by a licensed electrician.
    • When working outside, be aware of the location and stay away from overhead and underground electrical lines. You should also stay clear of downed wires and report them to 1-877-778-2222.
  • Prepare an emergency kit to help weather the situation.  Think about what you will need if you are forced to be without electricity or natural gas for an extended period. Plan for alternative heating/cooking sources and understand how to operate all alternative heating sources and generators safely and according to manufacturers’ instructions.  Consider the possibility of alternative lodging, and if you need to provide access to utilities during extended periods away from your home or business, how you might be able to do so.
  • When cleaning up from floods and storms, if you do any excavations or renovations—tree removals or demolition of storm-damaged structures, for instance—always call Miss Utility at 811 before you dig. 

BGE Actively Monitors Natural Gas System Performance Year Round and During Storms

BGE is committed to delivering natural gas safely and reliably to our more than 653,000 gas customers in central Maryland.  We maintain thousands of miles of underground pipelines and gas facilities throughout the region. This includes actively monitoring our system during storms and other emergencies. Examples of our preparation for storms and flooding include:
  • Mobilizing gas employees to actively inspect and monitor the gas system in areas where flooding is likely.
  • Strategically positioning gas mechanics across the service area to allow for timely emergency response to reported leaks or damages to the system, despite challenges due to weather and obstructions to roadways.
  • Making ongoing gas maintenance and repair work weather-ready before the arrival of storms or flooding.
  • Maintaining, testing and operating back-up gas control facilities to ensure continuity of system monitoring and operations.
  • Preparing additional staffing to respond to major outages and flood situations, including working with neighboring utilities to secure assistance from non-BGE gas utility workers if needed.
  • Comprehensive inspections of the gas system following major storms and floods, and preparation for repair of pipes exposed by rushing water.
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