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Experts: If You Smell Gas, Report It Right Away

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- People who live near the two buildings that exploded in East Harlem this week said they smelled gas in the area the night before.

But city officials said it was not reporter soon enough.

As CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Thursday, experts have advice on how to deal with the smell of gas and the threat of a leak, whether you live in an apartment building or a private home.

Carmen Vargas-Rosa, the owner of the Spanish Christian Church in one of the buildings on Park Avenue off 116th Street that were destroyed, said she smelled gas the day before.

'There was a smell of gas," Vargas-Rosa said. "It would come and go, so I thought it was from the corner store there – there's a deli. So I went to the owners and told them, and he said they would look into it."

The following morning, the explosion happened – leveling two buildings and leaving at least eight people dead. And across the city, reports of gas leaks are up.

"For the first 12 days of March, we were averaging about 40 night calls coming into the department," said FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano. "Yesterday, we had about 90."

Officials highlighted the importance of reporting the smell of gas, which is the signal of a leak. Natural gas is actually odorless, but the smell of rotten eggs is added as a warning.

Gas safety expert Carl Krause of Marplat-Platsky Plumbing and Heating called it "a very pungent odor, easily detected by the sense of smell."

Krause advised never hesitating to report a gas odor immediately to your utility, wherever you live.

"That's part of the tariff, that they are regulated to come out and check your property, ensure your safety," Krause said.

And Mayor Bill de Blasio said it simplest in a tweet.

"If there's something that we need to remind ourselves of at this moment, it's that if you smell gas -- any hour, any day, even for five minutes -- report it to Con Ed or report it to 311," de Blasio said.

Con Ed chief executive officer John McAvoy emphasized that all calls will be taken seriously.

"When you call us, that is our highest priority," he said. "You hear it as soon as you go into the queue that those calls get handled immediately."

On Long Island, where the rare gas explosion has leveled homes, installers advised leaving the area and calling your utility in the event of a leak, and not turning on any switches.
"They don't want you creating any kind of spark -- a light switch will do that, a wall mounted telephone will do that – there's a number of things, door bells will even do that," said Todd Tuohy of Universe Appliance.

You may also see or hear a gas leak -- a White cloud, a mist or bubbles in water, and a sound like roaring, hissing or whistling.

And experts advise you should never assume someone else will report the condition. If you smell gas in your neighborhood, immediately report it yourself.

Con Ed said the average response time for a report of a gas smell in the city is 22 minutes.

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