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NorthWestern Reminds Customers about Carbon Monoxide, Natural Gas Safety

Jan 19, 2017

Butte, Mont. – Jan. 19, 2017 – After a significant period of cold and snow across its service territory, NorthWestern Energy is again reminding customers of important safety measures, especially those involving carbon monoxide and natural gas.

There have been several incidents involving carbon monoxide poisoning across NorthWestern’s service territory this winter. Carbon monoxide is a toxic, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas produced by the incomplete burning of natural gas, propane, kerosene or other fossil-fuel heat. Carbon monoxide, or CO, can result from improperly vented or malfunctioning furnaces, space heaters and other heating devices.

When homes are typically sealed tight in the winter months, the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning increases significantly. The symptoms of such poisoning can resemble the flu and can occur quickly or after long-term exposure. The symptoms include: dizziness, confusion, shortness of breath, nausea, headaches, fainting and tightness in the chest.

If you suspect carbon monoxide may be present in your home or business, seek fresh air immediately and call NorthWestern Energy. In Montana, customers should call (888) 467-2669. In South Dakota and Nebraska, customers should call (800) 245-6977.

Steps to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

  1. Make sure fuel-burning appliances, including furnaces, are properly vented.
    Heavy wet, blowing snow can block heating and appliance exhaust vents, which can cause equipment to malfunction resulting in a loss of heat or a build-up of deadly carbon monoxide in the structure.
  2. Have heating and venting equipment inspected annually by a qualified technician.
  3. Install carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home. Check and replace the batteries on a regular basis.
  4. Never let a vehicle idle inside an attached garage, even with the door open. Carbon monoxide can collect in the garage or go inside a home.

Natural Gas Safety

Natural gas is a safe, affordable and reliable means of heating homes and businesses. But improperly vented or malfunctioning natural gas appliances can present safety issues.

Unlike carbon monoxide, natural gas features a strong odorant that is added before it is distributed to customers. If you smell a strong and persistent odor similar to rotten eggs, leave your home immediately and avoid using any electric appliances such as light switches, garage door openers and phones—including a cell phone. When you are at a safe distance away, call NorthWestern Energy or 9-1-1 to report the concern. Stay away from the building until someone from the utility or a first responder tells you it's safe.

If your home has an outside natural gas meter, check it for accumulation of ice or snow. Look for your natural gas appliance vents – which often are on the roof – to ensure they are clear of snow. Also remember that clearing snow and ice from meters or vents needs to be done carefully and gently to avoid damaging the equipment.

Outdoor natural gas meters and equipment are designed to withstand winter weather conditions. However, heavy build-up of snow or ice, icicles falling from building eaves, or water dripping from a roof and freezing on a natural gas meter or appliance vent, may disrupt the flow of natural gas or create a potentially dangerous situation inside the structure.

Other safety reminders include:

  • Ensure your natural gas meter is visible at all times and accessible for maintenance and emergency responders.
  • Avoid using a snow blower near a meter to keep from burying the meter with snow.
  • Gently remove the snow or ice around the meter with your hands or use a broom to brush it away.
  • Never kick or hit your natural gas meter or its piping with a hammer or other hard object in order to dislodge snow or ice.
  • Keep natural gas vents clear, unobstructed and free of debris. Some direct-vent and high-efficiency appliances have direct side wall outdoor vents and air intakes that could become obstructed during heavy snowfall. Other vents may be on the roof.
  • If you have a seasonal property or are away on vacation, ask someone to check your natural gas meters and vents—especially after a significant storm. A covered meter, in addition to being potentially dangerous, can disrupt service leading to loss of heat to the structure.
In Montana, customers should call (888) 467-2669. In South Dakota and Nebraska, customers should call (800) 245-6977.

About NorthWestern Energy (NYSE: NWE)

NorthWestern Corporation, doing business as NorthWestern Energy, provides electricity and natural gas to approximately 701,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's Web site at

Media Contact:
Butch Larcombe
(866) 622-8080

South Dakota/Nebraska Media Conact:
Tom Glanzer
(877) 410-0154

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