With a growing reputation as one of the safest and cleanest sources of fossil fuel, use of natural gas as an energy source has become more widespread over the past several years. If you are one such homeowner, it is important to know the most common warning signs of a gas leak, so that you can take appropriate action before it is too late.

Natural gas is colorless and lighter than air, so you’ll need to rely largely on your sense of smell, unless there are obvious physical signs of a leak. It can be a damaged connection to a gas appliance, dead or dying vegetation or a fire or explosion near a pipeline.

If there are no obvious physical signs, a foul odor similar to that of a rotten egg is the most common smell associated with a gas leak. This odor can also be masked by other odors that are present in your home, so there is no guarantee that you’ll sense it immediately. You might also hear a hissing or whistling sound near the gas line or appliance where you believe the leak has occurred.

Once you have determined that there is a gas leak in your home, it is important that you do not use anything that could spark the gas. Attempting to turn natural gas valves on or off, using your home telephone or cell phone and striking a match are all to be avoided in the event of a possible gas leak.

The safest course of action is to leave the house immediately and call 911 once you are a safe distance from your home. Make sure that no one else enters the home before the emergency responders. Starting a vehicle in close proximity to your home is also not a good idea, as it could also spark the gas.