What to do in an emergency
Whether it’s a gas leak, carbon monoxide emergency, power cut or an electric shock, find out what to do, and who to call – right here.
What to do in case of a gas leak
You can usually tell if you have a gas leak because of a strong smell of gas in your home – but there are other signs to watch out for, too – including:
- If your boiler’s pilot light keeps blowing out
- If the pilot light or gas rings on your cooker are orange or yellow, rather than crisp blue
- If there’s soot or scorched areas on the exterior of your appliances
- If there’s more condensation than usual on your windows
Here’s what to do if you can smell gas, or think you have a gas leak:
- Open doors and windows to let the gas out
- Check to see if your gas appliances are switched off
- Turn your gas off at the isolation switch (if you know where it is)
- Wait outside your home, and let your neighbours know
- Call the 24-hour National Gas Emergency service on 0800 111 999
What not to do when having a gas emergency:
- Don't use any electrical switches, and don't switch lights on or off
- Don't smoke, light a match, or use any other kind of naked flame
- Don't go back into your home until you've got the all-clear
Find out more about preventing and detecting a gas leak, in our helpful guide
Who should I contact in case of a gas leak?
If you think you have a gas leak, call the 24-hour National Gas Emergency service on 0800 111 999. They’ll send someone out to help locate and stop the leak – so you’ll need to be available to let them in.
What to do in a carbon monoxide emergency
Carbon monoxide (chemical formula CO) is a highly toxic gas. It’s known as the “silent killer” because it can’t be seen, smelt or tasted.
A tension-type headache is the most common symptom of mild carbon monoxide poisoning. And symptoms can easily be mistaken for something else, like the flu, food poisoning, a hangover, or just feeling “under the weather”. It’s crucial that you don’t ignore any of these signs.
Other symptoms include:
- Feeling and being sick
- Tiredness and confusion
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
Signs that indicate carbon monoxide poisoning, rather than something else include:
- Symptoms at home, but which seem to disappear when you leave
- Other members of your household (including pets) feel unwell with the same symptoms, at the same time
It’s vital that you’re aware of any signs of carbon monoxide in your home – so check regularly for:
- An orange or yellow flame on your gas hob, instead of the usual blue
- Dark, sooty stains around gas appliances
- More condensation than normal inside your windows
- The pilot light on your boiler frequently blowing out
Here’s what to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Stop using all gas appliances. You can turn off all gas appliances at once by using the “emergency control valve”, found on the pipes leading into your gas meter.
- Open all doors and windows to get fresh air inside.
- Get outside as soon as possible. Stay calm and try not to raise your heart rate.
- Call your regional gas emergency number.
- Seek immediate medical help, as you may not know how badly you’ve been affected. Just being in fresh air alone isn’t enough.
- DO NOT go back into your home. Wait for the emergency services.
It’s also a great idea to get at least 1 carbon monoxide detector fitted at home. They work in a similar way to smoke or fire alarms, by sounding an audible alarm when carbon monoxide is detected.
Check out our guide to carbon monoxide safety, and how to spot carbon monoxide poisoning
Who should I contact in a carbon monoxide emergency?
If you’re worried that fumes containing carbon monoxide are escaping from a gas appliance, call the 24-hour National Gas Emergency service on 0800 111 999. Or call your regional gas emergency number.
What to do in case of a power cut
First up, it’s important to check if there’s a power cut in your area, or simply a problem with the power in your own home. Check the streetlights outside, or your neighbours’ home, to see if it’s an issue in your area. Then, if it’s area-wide:
- Switch off all your electric appliances – especially the ones that shouldn’t be left unattended, such as microwaves or heaters. You don’t want them coming back on at a random time! This will also protect your appliances from electrical surges, which can happen during power cuts.
- Leave one light switch turned “on”, so you’ll be able to tell if the power comes back.
- Call 105 to report the power cut to your network distributor.
Or if it’s just a problem in your home, first check your fuse box, to see if a switch has been tripped. If not:
- Switch everything off at the plug.
- Leave one light switch turned on so you can see if the power comes back on.
- If you have a Pay As You Go meter, check that it’s topped up. Empty? That could be the cause of your problem, and you’ll need to activate your emergency credit, or top it up with cash.
- Next, check your fuse box: first, turn off the main switch.
- Follow up by turning off all the individual switches, one by one.
- Next, turn the main switch back on.
- Then, flip each of the smaller switches back on, again one by one. If any of the switches flips itself back to the “off” position automatically, it has “tripped”. That means that there’s a fault.
- You can tell where the fault is by paying attention to which switch flips. It could be telling you that something in that circuit is wrong – for example, you could have a faulty appliance plugged in. Try unplugging the appliance, and going back to step one to try again.
If that doesn’t work, or if there seems to be a fault but you don’t know what it is, it’s time to call an electrician. Don’t attempt to do any electrical work yourself.
Experiencing a power cut? Check out our detailed guide to learn what to do, and how to report it
Who should I contact in case of a power cut?
Your first port of call is to alert your Distribution Network Operator, or DNO. You can find out how to contact them by calling the National Power Cut Helpline on 105. This free helpline will connect you to your DNO.
Alternatively, you can look up your DNO in our useful guide to UK Distribution Network Operators.
What to do in case of an electric shock
To avoid electric shocks happening in the first place, it’s really important to have good electrical safety habits. So take fast action against faulty switches, frayed wires, and defective appliances.
Accidents can still happen – so here’s what to do if you witness someone having an electric shock:
- Consider your own safety first. Before you touch the casualty, check to see if they’re still in contact with the source of the shock. If they are, they’ll still be “live” – so touching them means you might end up being shocked yourself.
- Turn off the electricity – either by pulling out the plug, switching it off at the wall, or turning off the power supply in your fusebox. It might be quicker to try to break the connection between the casualty and the object (the live wire or appliance) using a non-conducting object made of cardboard, plastic or wood, such as a broom or a mop.
- Check the casualty. Ask them if they can hear you, and to open their eyes. Don’t move them unless the situation is critical.
- If the casualty’s conscious: it’s important to monitor their condition for several hours after the shock. If they experience any confusion, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, muscle pain and/or contractions, seizures, or loss of consciousness, take them to A&E immediately.
- If the casualty’s unconscious: Call 999 immediately and ask for the emergency medical services. Check the casualty’s breathing. If they’re breathing normally, put them in the recovery position and stay with them until help arrives. If the person shows no sign of circulation, such as breathing or movement, begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). To do this:
- Make sure the casualty is lying flat on a firm surface
- Place your hands on top of one another in the centre of the casualty’s chest
- Compress their chest (by 5-6 cm) 30 times swiftly
- After 30 compressions, tilt their head back and lift their chin, seal their nostrils with your thumb and forefinger and blow steadily into their mouth until you see their chest rise
- Remove your mouth and wait until their chest falls, then repeat until you’ve given 2 rescue breaths in total
- If the casualty remains unresponsive, begin the process again
Who should I contact in case of an electric shock?
Call 999 immediately and ask for the emergency medical services.
What to do in case of a Pay As You Go emergency?
With a smart meter you’ll have an extra £5 of emergency credit to use if you need it. You’ll also have a bit of extra time to top up before you actually go “off supply”. But if you don’t top up within a set time, your meter will disconnect.
If you have a Smart Pay As You Go meter, you might need to reconnect your supply manually after you top up. With a SMETS2 meter using your Chameleon Smart In-Home Display (IHD6):
- From the home screen, press OK
- Press the right arrow twice, until you see 'Activate electricity supply’
- Press OK
If you have an Aclara SMETS2 meter and a Flonidan gas meter
- Your electricity meter will have two buttons, A and B, rather than a keypad
- Once you’ve topped up, press and hold the A and B buttons on your electricity meter at the same time, for about 10 seconds
- You should hear a clicking noise when your supply returns
- If it doesn’t work the first time, wait a couple of minutes before trying again
If you’re still having trouble, you can try adding your top-up manually.
- Once you’ve topped up, press any button on your gas meter
- Your meter will automatically begin reconnecting
If it doesn’t reconnect, check all your gas appliances are switched off, then try again.
Your meter won’t cut out as long as you have credit available on your meter at the start of these periods:
- Between 6pm and 9am Monday to Friday
- Before 9am or after 4pm on Saturday
- All day on Sunday
- And these bank holidays: Easter Sunday, 25 and 26 December, and 1 January
If you have a long-term health condition or a disability, or could otherwise be at risk if you lose power, a Pay As You Go meter is probably not right for you. Please let us know about this when you first sign up and we'll help you choose another option.
Who should I contact in case of a Pay As You Go emergency?
If you pay as you go for your energy and there’s an emergency with your Pay As You Go meter, call us on 0330 175 9669.
Any further questions?
If you need a hand, don’t hesitate to get in touch. There’s more help available in the OVO Forum. And if you don't find the answers you need, feel free to ask a question, and one of our forum members will be happy to help!