The Washington Post

New York firefighters will now respond to every report of a possible gas leak

Workers at the East Harlem explosion site on March 16. (John Minchillo/AP)

The New York Fire Department will now respond to any reports of gas odors in the city, a change that follows an explosion earlier this year that killed eight people in upper Manhattan.

This change, which was announced in a new report on New York’s underground infrastructure issued by city agencies, is meant to improve the response time to such calls. In addition to responding to every report of a gas odor, authorities are going to urge people to call 911 if they smell any gas and shunt calls to 311 about these odors to 911.

Previously, some people had been directed to call their gas provider to report a leak. That guidance was still listed on the New York City Office of Emergency Management’s site and on utility Con Edison’s site as of Wednesday afternoon.

The new policy comes three months after an explosion caused by a gas leak leveled two buildings in East Harlem. Eight people were killed and dozens injured in the accident, which investigators attributed to a leak found in a gas main near one of the buildings. Con Edison said it received a call shortly before the explosion regarding a gas odor in the area, but its crews arrived after the explosion.

The FDNY says it can handle all of these calls, even if the volume rises considerably, according to the report. Con Edison reports that it receives about 31,000 calls a year about gas leaks and that no leaks are found for about 40 percent of those calls. The company said its average response time to such calls last year was 22 minutes; the FDNY, by comparison, averages under eight minutes in responding to non-fire emergencies (like reports of gas leaks).

In addition to outlining this change, the report recommends investing more in infrastructure improvements, noting that the city’s “gas infrastructure is aging and increasingly fragile.”

You can read the full report here:

New York City Infrastructure Report – June 2014

Mark Berman covers national news for The Washington Post and anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and stories from around the country.

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