When you fire up your grill or turn on your gas stove to cook, you expect it to work flawlessly and safely.
The job of our Gas Patroller team is to make sure it does. A team of 28 Gas Patrollers and two compliance coordinators cover hundreds of miles on any given day to ensure our pipelines are free of leaks and hazards. They respond when anyone calls SDG&E to report gas smell around their home or business. They repair any low-volume gas leaks.
There are over eight thousand miles of natural gas distribution and transmission pipelines in our region. To put things in perspective, that’s equivalent to the length of more than 120,000 football fields.
Public safety is our number one priority, so every day crews check gas meters for corrosion, leaks, and any safety issues they can find with the gas meters. The California Public Utilities Commission mandates regular inspections.
Jake Palechek, a 14-year SDG&E veteran, is part of the Gas Patroller team who surveys neighborhoods all over San Diego to investigate any reports of gas leaks and conduct routine checks of the gas meters and areas surrounding them.
“My favorite part of the job is meeting different people out there in the community every day and the work we do to keep them safe,” Jake said. “But many don’t understand why we are out here when they see us in the yard with equipment checking for any potential leaks or hazards.”
Palechek carries around a portable, infrared-based leak detection survey instrument, which is designed to detect methane only, and no other hydrocarbons, so it does not produce false alarms.
Safety and Awareness
Some of the biggest challenges Gas Patrollers encounter in their daily work are dogs, locked gates, inaccessible meters, and people not knowing why SDG&E crews are there.
“There is a misconception that when meter reading went away, SDG&E wouldn’t need access to a person’s property, but that’s not the case. We still need access to do our job and keep the public safe, and many don’t know that,” said Jake. “And with so much ground to cover in a day, we have to work quickly to complete the route.”
Aside from checking neighborhoods and businesses on foot, Gas Patrollers also use trucks equipped with an Optical Methane Detector (OMD) to check the streets. These trucks have a blue detector mounted on the front bumper. When these trucks drive slowly through a neighborhood (up to 25 miles per hour), the OMD can detect any sign of a gas leak, on the go.
What to Expect from Gas Patrollers
It’s important to remember when Gas Patrollers work their routes, they will always be surveying around the gas meter or area of the property where the gas service runs to the meter. If you are suspicious, check to make sure they are wearing the SDG&E logo on their person and have an official company ID card. You should also always look to ensure that they arrived in a SDG&E-marked company vehicle.
If you are still suspicious, please call SDG&E at 1-800-411-7343.
The Patrollers will knock on doors and call out as they are walking to the meter by announce their arrival or contact the homeowner by phone to get access to meters behind a gate or dogs in the yard if possible. The crew will also leave a door hanger with information to contact the office so that they can schedule an appointment to gain access.