Explosions from gas theft usually destroy the tampered meter so there’s rarely any evidence
We’ve all seen stories on the news about gas explosions, but very few people are aware that many of these could have been caused by people tampering with their gas meter.
Everyone knows how dangerous a gas leak can be and that’s why gas suppliers are incredibly careful that meters and gas appliances are safe.
So it’s highly likely that many gas explosions are the result of meter tampering. But the results of the gas explosion are so devastating that usually the meters are destroyed.
Like a bomb had been dropped
This is the rubbled remains of a suburban house decimated in a suspected gas explosion that killed the 63-year-old owner and damaged more than a dozen more properties.
Describing it like ‘a bomb has been dropped’ is no exaggeration as the house had been completely torn apart.
Properties surrounding the demolished home had their windows blown out, roofs smashed, and garages destroyed, while debris from the blast was thrown onto streets more than 400 metres away.
Neighbours said they were woken by a loud blast and thought it was ‘an aeroplane crash’ or an ‘earthquake’. The blast was heard by people up to a mile away.
On one of the few occasions when evidence of tampering is discovered, the results are just as destructive and lethal.
The tenant of an upstairs flat was blown out of the window
A gas explosion in Darlington last year blew the tenant of an upstairs flat out of the window and into the back garden, leaving him covered in flames. He was the resident of an upstairs council flat, while the downstairs flat was unoccupied at the time.
A spokeswoman for Durham Constabulary told The Northern Echo: “We can confirm that the leak was caused by deliberate tampering of a gas pipe within the unoccupied ground floor flat of the property.”
A flat with tampered gas pipes or meter can often create enough build-up of gas over the course of a few hours to turn that flat into a ticking time bomb. And don’t think it needs someone to light a match. Just something as innocent as the postman ringing the doorbell can cause enough of a spark to make the gas combust.
A British Gas spokeswoman said that people tampering with gas meters are not only breaking the law – they are endangering the lives of themselves, their families and their neighbours through a possible explosion.
And that is the trouble with gas theft, it not only endangers the life and property of the person committing the crime, but also anyone who lives or works around them.
1 in 4 would turn a blind eye
Rodger Holden, Director at Crimestoppers said: “Energy theft is one of those crimes that people don’t think affects them, but they could not be further from the truth.”
Even so, one in four people still say they would turn a blind eye if they became aware of a tampered meter.
It’s not snitching if you’re saving someone’s life
Snitch, grass, sneak, tell-tale, squealer, whistle-blower. But if it saves your life, wouldn’t you want to do something about it?
You may be aware of someone committing gas theft that you’re quite close to, or who are part of your local community and so you feel nervous about coming forward. But by not saying anything you are potentially putting yours and others’ lives at risk.
Gas meter tampering may even be happening right under your nose. We recently had a report of someone who had tampered with both their gas and electricity meters, even though the meters were outside the front of their house.
Of course, we understand people’s worries about reporting someone they know, and that is why we set up the stayenergysafe service to be a safe place for people to come forward with information and be treated completely anonymously.
And don’t feel you have to actually see someone tampering with their meter. Even if you just see someone hanging around the meter cupboard more than usual or hurriedly walking away from it when they see you. If it seems wrong, it’s still worth contacting us.
Remember, however guilty you feel about reporting someone, it’s not half as bad as you’ll feel if you do nothing and their meter tampering causes a devastating gas explosion.
How do you report gas theft?
If you are suspicious of anyone stealing gas – or electricity – anywhere, stay safe.
You can contact stayenergysafe on 0800 023 2777. Or you can fill out a secure anonymous online form here. Crimestoppers guarantees 100% anonymity for everyone who contacts us.
Or find out more about the dangers of gas.