From a news release issued by Alliant Energy:

MADISON, WI – November 3, 2009 – Fall is the peak time for detecting natural gas leaks because homeowners are closing their windows and turning on their furnaces for the first time in months. Natural gas is an environmentally friendly and efficient energy source that many Alliant Energy customers use to cook food and heat their homes. Although natural gas leaks are extremely uncommon, remember to use your eyes, ears and nose to recognize a natural gas leak in order to keep your family safe and protect your home.

While rare, natural gas line leaks can be extremely dangerous. The most telling sign of a natural gas line leak is the odor the natural gas coming into the home has. Alliant Energy adds a chemical that smells similar to rotten eggs to make even the smallest leak easy to detect.

It’s also important to be able to identify a natural gas leak outside your home. If you hear an unusual hissing or whistling sound, or if you see unexplained dead or dying grass in an otherwise green area, dirt or debris blowing into the air or water bubbling in a puddle, river, pond or creek, it may be a natural gas leak.

Customers should take the following precautions if they notice any of these warning signs:
+ Everyone should vacate the home immediately, and DO NOT stop to open windows, vents or doors.
+ Avoid touching anything that may create a spark, such as a light switch, telephone, cell phone or a garage door opener. If possible, stay away from carpeted areas to avoid sparks of static electricity.
+ DO NOT try to find the source of the leak yourself. Call Alliant Energy at 1-800-ALLIANT (1-800-255-4268) from a neighbor’s house or outside your house from your cell phone as soon as possible.
+ If natural gas is blowing in your home or outdoors, call 911.