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NorthWestern Reminds Customers to Take Important Safety Steps

Mar 01, 2018

Butte, Mont. – Feb. 28, 2018 – After heavy snow and bitter cold in many parts of Montana, including the Browning and Hi-Line areas and other parts of northern and central Montana, NorthWestern Energy is reminding customers of several important safety measures.

For natural gas customers, deep and blowing snow can block heating and appliance exhaust vents, which can cause equipment to malfunction, resulting in a loss of heat or possibly a build-up of deadly carbon monoxide in homes and businesses.

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. Customers are responsible for keeping ice and snow from damaging utility meters.

If your home has a natural gas meter, carefully remove an accumulation of ice or snow on top of or around the meter. 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 to avoid damaging the equipment.

If at any time 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 energy company or a first responder tells you it's safe.

Unlike natural gas, carbon monoxide is odorless and may be present when a fuel is not burned completely due to inadequate combustion or when exhaust vents become clogged. Carbon monoxide symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and confusion.

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 if they suspect a natural gas leak, meter damage or have other concerns about their utility service.

About NorthWestern Energy (NYSE: NWE)
NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 709,600 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's website at

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Media Contact:
Butch Larcombe
(866) 622-8081

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