Natural Gas Safety World Video

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Teacher’s Guide

The Natural Gas Safety World video explains gas science concepts and how to use natural gas safely in daily life. The content addresses many state and national curriculum standards for grades 3-7, including physical science, earth science, and health and safety.

The video includes two 3-minute episodes. This presentation guide includes learning objectives, key concepts, discussion questions, and follow-up activities to reinforce the core messages of each episode.

You may wish to introduce these basic energy concepts to your class before showing the video:
Energy is the ability to change or move matter. Without energy there would be no motion, no light, and no heat, and life would not exist. Appliances like refrigerators, ovens, heaters, water heaters, clothes dryers, TVs, computers, and air conditioners need energy to work. Explore these concepts through the following classroom activity:

  1. Make an energy use chart in your classroom. Make three columns on the white board: one each for “What I Did,” “Appliance/Equipment I Used,” and “Energy Source” (such as electricity, propane, natural gas, charcoal, etc.).
  2. Have students call out activities they have participated in during the last week and the appliances and energy sources that facilitated these activities. Which energy sources are most common?

For most classrooms, natural gas will be among the most commonly used forms of energy. It is important to understand the following principles about natural gas so we can use it safely:

  • Natural gas is a form of energy found deep in the earth. Gas is one of the three states of matter (solid, liquid, gas).
  • Natural gas is pressurized and delivered to buildings through pipes. People need to take care not to damage underground gas pipes with digging equipment, because the gas can leak out and cause a fire hazard.
  • Because a natural gas leak is a fire and explosion hazard, utilities add a distinctive, sulfur-like odor to natural gas so people will know if it is leaking. (It smells like rotten eggs.) While this odor is a telltale sign of a gas leak, some gas leaks do not have an odor. For example, some very high-pressure transmission pipes carry gas that has not yet been odorized, so you must rely on other signs to detect a leak from these pipelines.

Episode 1: Natural Gas Basics

Objective:

To teach students about the origins of natural gas, how gas gets to us, and basic safety practices around gas appliances.

Key Concepts:

Introduce the relevant vocabulary words in boldface below before showing the video.

Methane is a hydrocarbon gas that is the key ingredient in natural gas.

Natural gas, found deep in the earth, is the product of decayed plants and animals.

Mercaptan is a chemical with the smell of rotten eggs. It is added to natural gas so people will know if gas is leaking. If you notice this smell, go to a safe location and call your gas utility.

Natural gas is pumped up through a well and sent through many miles of large pipes to neighborhoods. Smaller pipes carry it into homes, schools, and businesses where it is used to run various appliances such as heaters, dryers, water heaters, and stoves.

A pilot light is the small blue flame of some gas appliances that is always burning.

You should never store flammable objects or liquids near natural gas appliances. The pilot light could set them on fire.

Discussion:

  1. Everything in the world exists in one of three different states of matter—solid, liquid, and gas. What is matter? (Anything that takes up space or has a mass of any kind. Everything you can touch is made of matter. If it is made of anything, it is matter.) What is a solid? (A substance that keeps its shape and always takes up the same amount of space.) What is a liquid? (A substance that takes on the shape of its container, but fills the same amount of space no matter what container it’s in.) What is a gas? (A substance whose molecules are randomly moving so quickly that they easily separate from one another. Gases will spread out and take on the shape and volume of whatever they are in—a jar or a room.)
  2. Coal, oil, and natural gas are known as fossil fuels because they were formed from the fossilized remains of plants and animals that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. Which of these fuels is a liquid? Which is a gas? Which is a solid? (Oil is a liquid. Natural gas is a gas. Coal is a solid.)
  3. Ask students which appliances in their homes use natural gas. (Answers could include water heater, stove burners, oven, gas heater, clothes dryer.)
  4. Why is it so dangerous to store flammable objects near gas appliances? (Gas appliances use a flame and some, like an oven or heater, can get hot enough to set fire to something flammable that is close by. Also, the fumes of flammable liquids could be ignited by the flame or pilot light inside a gas appliance.)
  5. What does it mean if your gas range has a large, yellow, or flickering flame? (It is not working properly and you should call a repairperson. When it is working properly the gas flame is blue.)

Going Further:

Make a bumper sticker about natural gas safety.

Episode 2: Gas Pipeline Safety

Objective:

To teach students the importance of contacting 811 before digging, and how to recognize and respond to an indoor or outdoor natural gas leak.

Key Concepts:

If you dig into an underground gas line, you could cause a dangerous leak. When planning a digging project, first contact 811, also known as the one-call service. They will arrange for utilities to locate and mark their underground lines to show you where you can dig safely.

The signs of a gas pipeline leak include a smell of rotten eggs, a hissing or roaring sound, dirt being blown into the air, continual bubbling in water, and grass or plants dead or dying for no apparent reason. If you notice any of these signs, go far away from the area and call 911.

If you smell gas in your home, leave and take everyone with you, far away from the area. Don’t use a match, a light switch, or anything else that uses electricity (such as a cell phone or a flashlight) until you are far away. Even the tiny spark of the electrical connection of a cell phone could ignite the gas and cause an explosion. Report the odor to your gas utility.

Discussion:

  1. Ask for examples of types of digging projects that would warrant a call to the one-call service. (Planting a tree or garden, grading a driveway, installing a sprinkler system, building a home or a home addition, installing a fence.) 
  2. Ask students to name all the electrical items in their homes that they might be tempted to use in case of a gas leak, and to explain why they should not use them. (Light switch, TV, flashlight, cell phone, radio, computer, etc. A spark could ignite the gas and cause an explosion.)
  3. Ask students to recap the signs of a natural gas pipeline leak, and what to do if they detect one. (The smell of rotten eggs, a hissing or roaring sound, dirt blowing into the air, continual bubbling in water, or grass or plants dead or dying for no apparent reason. If they notice any of these signs, they should go far away and call 911.) Safety note: While the smell of rotten eggs is a telltale sign of a gas leak, some gas leaks do not have an odor. For example, some very high-pressure transmission pipes carry gas that has not yet been odorized, so you must rely on other signs to detect a leak from these pipelines.

Going Further:

Have students conduct a natural gas safety inspection at home. Have them report back what natural gas hazards, if any, they found, and whether/how their family fixed the hazard.

Ask students to make a poster to teach people in your community about 811.