Any home appliance that uses natural gas or liquid propane (LP) gas carries a potential fire hazard. Water heaters, furnaces, space heaters, stoves, ovens, and cooktop ranges can all be powered by gas, so it's a good idea to know where the gas shutoff valves are located on any of these appliances. Shutting off the gas to the stove yourself is safe only if the gas odor is faint and is clearly coming from the stove area.
If You Smell Gas
If a gas smell permeates the entire house, or you detect a strong smell when you walk inside your home, leave the house immediately and call 9-1-1 from a neighbor's house or from a cell phone well away from your house.
If the gas smell in your home is very strong, it is best to leave the house immediately and let the utility company come in and check out the problem. Understanding the danger of gas leaks, utilities make this emergency inspection quickly and for free, using special sensing equipment to pinpoint the leak. The danger of explosion is very real in a house where the gas smell has filled one or more rooms, and you should leave immediately.
If the odor of gas is faint and is contained in a small area, you can shut off the gas yourself before calling the utility or a plumber. In many instances, the location of the gas smell will give you a strong hint about what appliance is malfunctioning or where the bad connection is located. If you smell gas in the kitchen, for example, it's quite likely that the problem lies with the stove or range. When the smell of gas is localized in this way, it is usually safe to act quickly to turn off the gas supply to the appliance itself, but always use your best judgment, and err on the side of safety.
Use the gas shutoff valve connected to the appliance's flexible supply line to turn off the gas to a stove. Building codes now require the gas shutoff valve to be located within 6 feet of the appliance and in the same room, so if you find an improper situation, it is a good idea to have a service person install a proper shutoff valve. Shutoff valves for standard (freestanding) gas stoves or ranges typically are located behind the appliance.
Ventilate the Area
If you smell gas, open windows to provide ventilation to the room. Do not turn on vent fans or even operate light fixtures until the gas has been shut off and the room has been ventilated. If the gas is dense in the air, there is a small but real chance that electrical arcing from flipping a wall switch could trigger an explosion.
Check the Burners
Make sure all the burner controls are in the OFF position. In a surprising number of cases, a slightly opened burner valve is what is allowing gas to seep into the kitchen. If this isn't the problem, move to the next step.
Remove the Oven Drawer
Carefully pull out the drawer below the oven compartment, and empty the drawer of all contents. Remove the drawer completely. Shine a flashlight into the open drawer space to check for the gas shutoff valve. Most stoves are installed so that the gas shutoff valve is accessible through the drawer compartment, so you can easily shut off the gas without moving the stove.
If the shutoff valve is not accessible behind the drawer compartment, look behind the stove for the gas shutoff valve; if it's there, you'll have to pull out the stove to access the valve. If you don't see the shutoff valve behind the stove, look for it underneath the floor (in a basement or crawl space below the stove location) or in a neighboring cabinet.
Move the Stove (as Needed)
If the shutoff valve is behind the stove but is not reachable from the drawer compartment, carefully pull the stove away from the wall to gain access to the gas valve. As you move the stove, keep an eye on the flexible gas tubing. It's very likely that connections on this tubing are where the gas leak is occurring, and you don't want to increase the problem by pulling out the stove too quickly or putting stress on the tubing or connections. Do not unplug the stove from its electrical outlet, since pulling the plug from the outlet creates a very small risk of sparking.
Close the Shutoff Valve
Locate the gas valve handle and turn it a one-quarter turn until it stops. Usually, this is a ball valve with a lever handle. When it is in the OFF position, the handle will be perpendicular to the direction of the gas pipe. Turn on one of the stove burners to verify that the gas has been turned off. If you want to unplug the stove cord from its electrical outlet, wait until the smell of gas is completely gone.
Call a Professional
Call the gas company or a plumber to come and find and correct the source of the problem. While it is possible to inspect the flexible gas line and tighten the connections or replace the gas line yourself, the potential dangers here are great, and it's best to have the gas company or a plumber do this inspection and work. In many communities, homeowners are discouraged or forbidden from working on gas lines themselves due to the inherent dangers.
If you still smell gas after you shut off the gas to the stove, call the gas company immediately to have them shut off the gas supply to the entire home and inspect for a leak. Vacate your home until the service person gives you the all-clear that your home is safe.
Gas Shutoffs for Cooktops and Wall Ovens
With cooktops that are set into countertop openings, shutting off the gas is very easy, since the shutoff valve is usually located inside the base cabinet below the cooktop. Just locate the valve and turn it one-quarter turn so the handle is perpendicular to the gas pipe. In rare instances, you may need to lift the cooktop unit away from the countertop opening to reach the shutoff valve.
Wall ovens that are mounted inside permanent wall cabinets usually have a gas shutoff valve located in a cabinet below or to the side of the oven, where it is readily accessible. This has been a code requirement for some time, but in older installations, the shutoff valve for a wall oven can be hard to find. It may even be located in another room, or in the basement space below the oven.