9

The Finnish website pelastustoimi advises to listen to the radio in the event of smelling gas.

If you are already indoors and smell gas

  • put a wet cloth in front of your mouth and breathe through it
  • go upstairs and stay there if possible
  • stay calm, listen to the radio and wait until the danger is over

Given that certain gases can explode and that radios might give off a spark that ignites the gas, should you actually use any electric device (including the radio) when smelling gas?

14
  • 2
    The website indicates that the content is an 'instruction' by the Ministry of the Interior, a Government body. One has to assume that the 'instruction' is founded on a 'claim' that the instruction is valid. And since a Government Body is 'publishing' the 'instruction' (founded upon a claim) then that claim has been well received . . . . and one may choose to be skeptical of said claim.
    – Nigel J
    May 8, 2023 at 10:32
  • 41
    This advice is obviously for a chemical leak that occurred outside of the house (e.g., a leak at a chemical plant), as opposed to a gas leak that occurred inside the house (e.g., a break in a natural gas pipeline, or a gas stove that is leaking). In the case of the latter you will smell a very strong rotten egg smell. Get out. In the case of the former you will smell something rather foul but not a rotten egg smell. Stay inside. May 8, 2023 at 12:36
  • 16
    @DavidHammen: Please don't use this site to give unreferenced advice.
    – Oddthinking
    May 8, 2023 at 14:51
  • 2
    @JanusBahsJacquet A rapidly heating li/ion battery or any other rapidly heating component caused by the high power consumption of a phone, is much more likely to trigger an explosion inside an explosive environment than an old FM radio. Phones are not approved or designed for use in such environments. (Technical requirements for designing electronics inside explosive atmospheres are described in IEC/EN 60079.)
    – Lundin
    May 9, 2023 at 13:09
  • 2
    As for a radio setting off an explosion, the most common route is for a radio transmitter to trigger a sensitive blasting cap. A radio receiver is unlikely to generate a spark large enough to cause an explosion. If the concern is about a battery causing a spark, then this would apply to any electronic device, not just a radio. FYI, the spark ignitors on a gas stove generate 15000 volts. It's hard to imagine how to generate that much voltage from a radio receiver malfunction. And then you would have to have two simultaneous failures: a gas leak and a haunted radio. May 9, 2023 at 18:46

2 Answers 2

84

The Finnish website pelastustoimi advises to listen to the radio in the event of smelling gas.

Yes, but that needs to be put into context. As stated, one might think this is what one should do if one happens to smell gas in one's home. But it isn't. (In that situation one should immediately leave the building and phone the appropriate authorities.)

This is the actual message:

In hazardous situations and emergencies, the authorities warn the public of a direct and imminent danger to the population with a general alarm signal and an emergency warning. …

An alarm signal is sounded in the event of a gas leak or radiation hazard

In the event of a gas leak, follow the instructions above, but also note the following:

If you are already indoors and smell gas

  • put a wet cloth in front of your mouth and breathe through it
  • go upstairs and stay there if possible
  • stay calm, listen to the radio and wait until the danger is over

If you are outdoors and cannot go inside

  • move in a crosswind direction to try and get away from the gas cloud
  • go to a location that is as high as possible, such as a hilltop
  • put wet clothing, grass, peat or moss in front of your mouth and breathe through it

This is in no way talking about if one happens to smell gas in one's home.

This is saying if there is a general emergency warning about a massive gas leak and you happen to be able to smell it yourself while indoors, then stay indoors, take appropriate precautions, and listen to the radio for further advice.

radios might give off a spark that ignites the gas

Not likely, but possibly true for old radios with mechanical switches directly on the incoming power supply.

But if the gas is originating from outdoors, the concentration that leaks into the building will be much lower that is needed for ignition. It's only if the leak occurs within one's own building that such concentrations could occur.

The answer to the literal question "Is it actually advisable to listen to the radio when smelling gas?" is "No".

Had the question been "Is it advisable to listen to the radio after hearing the public emergency sirens?", the answer would be "Yes".

There's nothing to be skeptical about here.

11

This advice is obviously for a chemical leak that occurred outside of the house (e.g., a leak at a chemical plant), as opposed to a natural gas leak that occurred inside the house (e.g., a break in a natural gas pipeline inside ones house, or a gas stove that is leaking). In the case of the latter you will smell a very strong rotten egg smell. The rotten egg smell comes from an additive that intentionally makes the normally odorless natural gas stink badly. Get outside and phone the appropriate authorities. Your house may quickly go up in flames.

In the case of the former, which is what the referenced advice is about, you will smell something foul, but not that rotten egg smell. Get inside, or stay inside. The hazardous gas is likely to be more concentrated outside the house compared to inside the house.

4
  • Also it isn't common in Finland to have gas pipes inside houses. Gas stoves are mostly a thing of the past unless one lives in a very old apartment.
    – Lundin
    May 9, 2023 at 13:03
  • @Lundin Regarding gas stoves being phased out in Finland, that's sad. I never enjoyed cooking on the electric stovetop range, all the food sticks to the pan. Fortunately gas stoves are not going away here - we signed a bill to prevent that.
    – john
    May 10, 2023 at 5:13
  • 6
    @john Apart from the gas leak risk, it's also a geopolitical thing. Not everyone likes to pay a fee to Russia each time they cook dinner.
    – Lundin
    May 10, 2023 at 7:41
  • @john Cooking electric stovetops require somewhat different cooking techniques and you need to practice them. Moreover you need suitable cookware, because pans and pots with a thin base are not suitable and may lead to the issue you mention. On the bright side electric stovetops are way more efficient energywise (not necessarily for your wallet, though, because it depends on the gas price you are charged, but the environment will thank you). May 11, 2023 at 16:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .