Safety, students and ‘Smellfies’: Identifying and reacting to a gas leak

School-focused natural gas safety campaign offers potential life-saving lessons for kids

In a child’s mind, a new, albeit unpleasant, smell in their home isn’t likely a cause for alarm.

But for 750 students in an Ontario elementary school, a simple scratch-‘n’-sniff brochure could be the lesson that one day saves lives.

Everyone – children included – knows what to do if they see fire, or smell smoke. The old adage “stop, drop and roll” has been taught to generations of elementary school kids. But what about teaching kids about other potential household threats?

“As a principal, the safety of my students and staff is always on my mind,” says Olimpia Crosby, principal of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Scarborough. “We teach fire safety to all of our students, and when I was approached by Enbridge to teach them about natural gas safety, it was a perfect complement.”

In its pure state, natural gas is odourless. An odourant that smells like rotten eggs, called mercaptan, is added to the gas before it enters a home so that gas leaks are easily identified.

“We needed to teach not only the students, but also the staff of the school, about what natural gas smells like,” adds Crosby. “Physically giving the kids a scratch-‘n’-sniff brochure, and taking a photo of their reaction, was priceless. This let them get a whiff of what the gas actually smells like.”

In addition to being taught what natural gas smells like, the students also learned about why identifying natural gas is important and what actions to take if they think there might be a gas leak.

“We have a gas stove at home, and of course my 7-year-old is not allowed to touch it,” says Marnee Bruno. “But I never thought of teaching her to be aware of the dangers that can come along with natural gas. Thank you for this important initiative to keep our children and families safe.”

The idea for the natural gas safety day was spawned by a successful road show campaign recently executed by Enbridge Gas. To elevate the idea for 2016 and onward, employees from Enbridge Gas chose to target an audience that likely had little or no exposure to natural gas safety messages—elementary school children.

“Reaching an impressionable audience of children was a great way to share natural gas safety information,” says Scott Foster, a communications advisor with Enbridge Gas. “The photo booths made the day memorable for the kids, and the photos served as a catalyst to start the conversation of natural gas safety with their family members.”