As more Missouri families turn on their furnace and spend time by the fireplace, Ameren Missouri wants to remind customers that now is a great time to schedule a tune-up for natural gas equipment and review natural gas safety measures.

Safety

When used properly, natural gas is a safe and efficient source of energy, but it's important to understand the hazards associated with a gas leak. Ameren Missouri emphasizes customers should use their senses to detect a leak and act fast if they smell natural gas.

"While natural gas is naturally colorless and odorless, a distinctive, pungent odor is added to the gas for safety. The smell is similar to rotten eggs so you can recognize it quickly," said Pam Harrison, director of gas operations for Ameren Missouri. "Customer safety is critically important to us and we hope that families will discuss these gas safety measures together."

Ameren Missouri responds to gas leak calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week and there is never a charge to the customer to investigate a gas leak. Other gas safety tips include:

If you smell an odor or hear a hissing or leaking sound, evacuate immediately, taking all people and pets with you. Once you are safe, call Ameren Missouri at 1.800.552.7583.

In the event of a suspected gas leak, do not use light switches, cell phones, garage door openers or any electrical device that could generate a spark.

If you spot an unusual area of dead vegetation near a pipeline, it could be a sign of a gas leak. Blowing dirt, ground fires, or continuously bubbling water may also indicate a gas leak.

If anyone in your home is feeling ill with flu-like symptoms and you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, vacate the premises, get fresh air and call 911. Contact the Missouri Poison Center at 1.800.222.1222 for more information.

New Poster Contest

Safety does not stop at the meter. Missouri law requires any person making or beginning any excavation to call before you dig to request that buried utilities be marked to avoid unintentionally digging into an underground utility line. 811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number, and the 811 Poster Contest offers an easy way to teach kids about energy safety.

The poster contest is open to all students in grades 4-8. All entries must be postmarked by Dec. 11, or digitally submitted by Dec. 18. Winners will be announced by February 2021. Visit EnergySafeKids.org/811-poster-contest/ for full contest rules and regulations.

Safely Maintaining Equipment

Ameren Missouri reminds customers that they are responsible for the equipment in their home. The following tips can help keep your gas appliances operating safely:

Have a qualified heating contractor inspect your furnace annually. A properly tuned furnace saves energy and helps avoid costly repairs.

Check the flue to make sure it is clean and open. Any fuel that does not burn completely can create harmful levels of carbon monoxide.

Keep forced-air furnace filters clean. Clean or replace them according to the manufacturer's recommendation.

Avoid using or storing these products near the furnace: paint stripper, fabric or water softener, bleach, adhesives, or salt for melting ice. The chlorine or fluorine in these items can lead to furnace corrosion.

Keep your heat registers and cold-air returns clean so the air can flow properly. Arrange your furniture and drapes so they don't block the air flow.

Have your gas fireplace routinely serviced by a professional to ensure proper working order.

In the event of a power outage, do not use natural gas stove burners or the oven to heat your home.

When replacing natural gas products such as water heaters and furnaces, Ameren Missouri encourages customers to invest in energy efficient products. As an Ameren Missouri natural gas customer, you can save energy and earn rebates with our Ameren Missouri Natural Gas Efficiency Program. Visit AmerenMissouri.com/NaturalGas for details about cash back rebates, eligibility requirements and rebate forms.

Ameren Missouri has been providing electric and gas service for more than 100 years, and the company's electric rates are among the lowest in the nation. Ameren Missouri's mission is to power the quality of life for its 1.2 million electric and 132,000 natural gas customers in central and eastern Missouri. The company's service area covers 64 counties and more than 500 communities, including the greater St. Louis area. For more information, visit Ameren.com/Missouri or follow us on Twitter at @AmerenMissouri or Facebook.com/AmerenMissouri.