- An interview with Barrow-based Francis Jewula, in Gas Safety Week
- With 45 years’ experience, he knows a thing or two about the risks
- Ring 0800 111 999 immediately if you smell gas, don’t delay
It’s 45 years since a teenager called Francis Jewula joined the rapid-response team that’s ready day and night, 365 days a year, to deal with gas leaks or suspected carbon monoxide incidents.
As one of the UK’s longest-serving gas emergency engineers, he’s more than a little qualified to share the benefit of his experience and some timely advice during Gas Safety Week.
Francis is part of a team that works from the Barrow-in-Furness depot of gas emergency service Cadent, providing cover for a large area including Coniston, Ulverston and Millom.
This team responds to hundreds of call-outs every year. The vast majority will be false alarms, but that’s only something that can be confirmed by a Cadent engineer, like Francis.
“The big thing is not to delay, or wait until tomorrow, or think someone else will call – if you smell gas, call the national gas emergency service immediately (0800 111 999). It just isn’t worth the risk,” said Francis, 61, who’s trained to act fast if it turns out there is a gas leak.
“I go to one or two jobs a year where it’s serious enough that you have to evacuate the property. You can tell when you walk through the front door and smell it, the hairs go up on the back of your neck and you realise this is one when you’ve got to act quickly to keep everyone safe.”
Unfortunately though, the message to ‘ring immediately’ doesn’t seem to be hitting home. A survey in August found many people don’t know what to do if they smell gas, with many not thinking to call the national gas emergency service. This can result disastrous consequences, even explosions.
It’s the same number to ring – ring 0800 111 999, immediately – if you think you can smell natural gas (the gas you use to heat your home or cook your meals), or suspect the presence of another gas that doesn’t actually have a smell – carbon monoxide. Both, if left unchecked, are dangerous.
“I go to a lot of jobs relating to carbon monoxide,” said Francis. “I remember going to a very big house in Newby Bridge where an old man there used an oil-fired Aga. The flue was blocked and he was just so lucky to still be alive. He just hadn’t had it checked for a long time.”
He added: “There was another job in Barrow, where the owner, for some reason, had blocked the flue with an 8x4 inch metal plate. They started to feel very ill and that’s why. It’s just not worth taking such a risk – gas work should only be undertaken by a Gas Safe registered engineer.”
Gas Safety Week, now in its 10th year, runs from 14 to 20 September.
One of its main messages is to remind everyone of the importance of an annual gas safety check, carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer, to make sure all your appliances are operating safely.
It’s also a timely opportunity to remind people to save the national gas emergency service into their phone contacts, or keep it somewhere safe – it’s 0800 111 999. This is the free number to ring as soon as you smell gas, or suspect carbon monoxide. Any delay leads to risks increasing.
Jenny Moten, Cadent’s Network Director for North West England, said: “The first thing you must do if you smell gas, day or night, is call the gas emergency service on 0800 111 999 immediately.
“Please, save that number where you can find it easily and tell your family and friends about it.
“My engineers, like Frank, are on standby 24/7, 365 days a year, to respond quickly to any reported smells of gas. The vast majority will be false alarms, but some will be real gas leaks. They must all be checked out to be absolutely sure. You must tell us about it, so we can make that assessment.
“Don’t wait until later or think someone else will do it. The risk just isn’t worth taking.”
- What you should do if you smell gas
- Call the gas emergency number on 0800 111 999
- Extinguish any naked flames and do not smoke
- Do not operate any power or light switches, or any electrical appliances which could cause a spark
- Open doors and windows to ventilate the property
- Turn your gas off at the meter – If your meter is in a cellar/basement, do not enter. Evacuate the building
Cadent manages the gas emergency service for the southern half of Cumbria, including the Lake District, Barrow-in-Furness, Millom, Ulverston, Kendal and Grange-over-Sands, employing hundreds of engineers ready to respond fast to reported gas escapes.