Two weeks ago, a family in T. Nagar frantically tried to contact an emergency number after they detected an LPG leak.
After failing to get a response, they called a technician, the cylinder delivery boy and the fire and rescue services. “There was a spark and soon, fire spread from the gas stove to the cylinder. Firemen were able to put out the fire in time,” said N. Ganesan.
Many people who have attempted to contact emergency numbers in the event of a gas leak complain of lack of response. There is no centralised emergency response system in place, consumers said.
“When a leak happens, one cannot go looking for the cash memo that lists the emergency numbers. Worse, many such numbers do not elicit a response,” said K. Aravindan, a resident of Kottivakkam. The local mechanic rushed to his house before company personnel even responded to the situation, when there was a gas leak at his house in the past.
According to G.N. Venkatasivasubramanian, honorary fire safety consultant of Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services, if there is a leak or fire due to LPG, the best thing to do is to call the fire services. “Any accident is a failure of a management system or non-existence of such a system,” he said
Mounting calls to fire services
This year, so far, the fire services attended to 153 calls and last year, the number was 214. “We get an average of 10-15 calls every month due to leaks or fires caused by faulty tubes and regulators. Normally, we pour water, cut the fire and cool the cylinder,” said an officer of the fire services.
A. Ramachandran, Chennai area president of All India Indane Distributors’ Association, said emergency numbers worked from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. The rest of the time, it is the dealer’s responsibility to attend to leaks, he said.
“Indian Oil has an emergency number listed on the cash memo. Residents must copy the number and keep it where it can be accessed easily,” he said. Soon, toll free numbers would be routed to local area offices so that emergencies could be dealt with more effectively, Mr. Ramachandran said, adding that an emergency facility would soon be added to the IVRS number meant for booking refills.
According to an officer of the fire services, there are five spots where leaks could happen — the turn on/off knob on the stove, the place where the tube and stove are connected, the tube itself, the place where the tube is connected to the regulator, and the regulator itself. The tube, regulator and stove must be checked and serviced on a regular basis. Duplicate regulators could also lead to fires, the officer said.
According to V. Jayaraman, head of plastic surgery at Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital, at least 10 cases of burns due to explosion of LPG cylinders are registered every year. “Burns due to explosion of cylinder are usually above 60 per cent. Since most cases occur in households, they are fatal and there is a high percentage of burns,” he said.
Explosions inside kitchens with doors can create quite an impact. The victims rarely survive and mostly suffer from third degree burns, he said. Dr. Jayaraman attributed these explosions to carelessness on part of consumers, mostly.