March 2021, Vol. 248, No. 3


Spotlight on Utilities

By Michael Reed, Editor-in-Chief

All in a Day’s Work 


In some lines of work, cutting the occasional corner, while not being admirable, will not pose a threat to life or limb. 

However, as those going on calls for gas distribution companies know all-too-well, performing some of the more routine aspects of their job thoroughly can save not just property but lives. 

Terry Elliott, an employee with KS Energy Services since 2012, entered a home in Champaign, Ill., not long ago to perform relights on appliances. Most would consider this a routine call. 

The customer, who opened the door, was an elderly woman. As Elliott performed a routine inspection for possible safety and venting problems, the customer happened to mention that she had been experiencing headaches, dizziness and body aches. 

“I noticed the water heater did not have a vent pipe on it. I showed the customer, and she explained she had a roof put on a month earlier, and the roofer said he knocked the pipe off.” 

She was told everything was fine, but the pipe had not been put back in place correctly. As it turned out, Elliott’s experience paid off in a big way. 

Elliott explained to the customer that the improperly vented water heater could cause carbon monoxide to be vented into the house, most likely causing her symptoms. But he did not stop there. He helped the customer schedule a contractor to make sure the water heater was properly vented. 

“I have run into this problem before. It is part of my job to check all safeties and venting on all appliances I relight,” he said, adding, “We have to red tag appliances all the time; some people understand the hazards when we tell them.”

More than ‘Routine’  


In a separate incident, an anticipated “routine” call, this one to turn on service from CenterPoint Energy, another example of quick thinking occurred. 

Tyler Brown, a gas specialist in Terre Haute, Ind., knocked on a door that was answered by a customer who stumbled before losing consciousness.  

The carbon monoxide sensor Brown was carrying indicated more than 70 parts per million of carbon monoxide (CO) was present in the house. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists the permissible exposure level for the gas as 50 ppm. 

Brown located the source of the CO, a gas generator, and promptly called 911. The CenterPoint employee moved the man to the yard. Once he regained consciousness, Brown asked him if there were other people on the property. The CenterPoint specialist was told the resident’s fiancé was also in the house. 

Brown went back inside and located the woman in a bedroom as EMTs arrived. 

As a result of his quick thinking, Brown was awarded the American Gas Association (AGA) Meritorious Award, given to gas industry personnel whose actions have saved lives during the previous year. 

“Our employees are trained as first responders to natural gas emergencies, and Tyler’s perceptiveness to identify and react in accordance with that training is a direct reflection on how our employees show initiative and compassion toward our customers,” Richard Leger, vice president of Natural Gas Distribution, Indiana and Ohio, said of Brown’s actions. “To say that I am thankful to have Tyler on the team would be an absolute understatement.” 

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