SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In the wake of a Thursday gas explosion at home in Madison that sent a family of three to the hospital, KELOLAND News spoke with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue (SFFR) about what homeowners need to know to prevent a disaster of their own.

Brandon Fey is a fire inspector and investigator for SFFR, and on Friday morning, we set out to look at the situation at an average Sioux Falls home.

Brushing snow from the gas meter with a household broom, Fey explained the delicacy homeowners will want to use when clearing snow and ice from their meter.

“You don’t want to shovel around it — you don’t want snow to blow around it with a machine or anything like that,” Fey said.

Fey uses a household broom to sweep snow from the meter.

“We want to make sure our utilities outside are being taken care of throughout the winter,” Fey said. “Winter is extremely hard on our houses.” Fey said that the gas meter is one of the most important parts of the house to maintain, as in an emergency, it’ll likely be the first stop of the fire department.

Keeping the meter clear is important, but so is keeping it undamaged. Fey says to avoid using a hard shovel to get snow and ice off of it, instead using a broom, a soft brush or even your hand. If you feel like you can’t get ice off the meter safely, he says to contact your gas company, and they will come out and clear the ice off it.

Fey also went on to point out some of the key areas that homeowners should be focused on, such as the shutoff valve that allows first responders to shut off the gas in the event of a structure fire.

Fey points to the shut off valve on the gas meter

Another key area is the regulator, which is the circular bolted bit at the top of the meter. Fey tells us there is a vent on the bottom of the regulator.

“If this gets covered up, it can affect how this main line that comes in regulates the pressure of the gas going back into the house,” he said, noting that the regulator is both easily damaged and easily blocked.

Gas meter regulator. In this image, Fey has his forefinger hovering below the vent, which must stay clear of snow and ice.

Fey explained that damage to or blockage of the regulator can create issues with furnaces or stoves, leading to dangers such as carbon monoxide poisoning and, potentially, an explosion.

Beyond making sure your gas meter and lines are kept clear of snow and unobstructed, Fey also mentioned the importance of keeping vents clear. He pointed to one vent in particular on the house, a furnace vent that had a clump of ice hanging from the bottom.

Furnace vent with ice accumulating at the bottom.

Fey said that a blockage of vents such as these can also lead to risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.

These risks also apply to other types of vents including those that may be up on the roof, such as sewer vents and even radon vents. If these vents are blocked, there is really only one place for these gases to go: back into your house.

“We want to make sure those are not blocked by snow or ice,” Fey said.

Similar to the gas meter, if you don’t feel safe getting up on your roof to clear a vent, “call a technician. They can come and help you get that cleared up,” he said.

Your preparation and maintenance should not stop with just the exterior of your home.

“A couple things we want to look for too are gas-fed appliances like your stove, your fireplace, your water heater — we want to make sure those are working properly,” Fey said.

The most important thing, Fey said, can be a fire and carbon monoxide detector. “Call 211,” he said.

“We’ll schedule a time with you and make sure your smoke detectors are working properly, and if you don’t have them, we’ll put them up for you,” Fey said.

Indeed, SFFR via 211 has done a lot of installations. According to Fey, in 2022 the department installed more than 3,200 devices in around 800 houses.