Held Hostage By the Gas Company

Held Hostage By the Gas Company
By: Nicholas A. Dunlap, CPM

One of the great things about large utility companies such as So Cal Gas Company, So Cal Edison and AT&T is that there are so many layers of bureaucracy and so many levels of middle-management, that it is actual possible for lower-level employees and otherwise unqualified persons to make decisions that ultimately effect or have a significant impact on others.  Furthermore, these unqualified employees are often unaccountable for inappropriate behavior, poor decisions, failure to exercise common logic and more.

Last Friday at a building in the City of Orange, one of our residents smelled the faint odor of gas in the common area of the apartment complex.  The gas company responded only to shut off gas not for this one unit or building, but to the entire complex.  As a result of the Gas Company’s inability to solve the problem and unwillingness to assist in troubleshooting, we were forced to solve the issue ourselves.   

Immediately, we notified our plumbers who responded before 3:00pm and worked well into the evening with the gas company before being notified that we would not have gas until likely the next day.  At 8:00am on Saturday, our employees and our plumbers again responded to the issue, replacing over 20 feet of gas piping that we were instructed to  replace by the Gas Company.  After replacing the pipe, we were told that our gas would be turned back on.  Unfortunately, due to the opinion of the Gas Company’s service technician, we were not allowed to reopen the gas.  Again on Sunday, our staff and our plumbers continued to address the issue by exposing additional piping, testing for leaks and again making repairs.  However, Monday morning although we had reduced the once small leak to an insignificant 1.5 PSI measure (roughly the equivalent to 3 stove-top burners with a light flame), we were informed that the gas would remain off until we could install new gas lines to the entire complex.  It is important to understand that had the Gas Company simply capped off the area with the small leak, only 6 apartments would have been without gas.  However, as a direct result of their lack of awareness and understanding, we have suffered a loss of gas for the entire property. 

At present, we have selected a vendor to continue the work and restore gas as soon as possible.  We will have a licensed, insured and professional crew working diligently over the next 7 days (maximum) to restore gas to the property.  We are hoping to gain the cooperation of the gas company in restoring gas to the various buildings of the complex as the new line is installed and connected.  In the meantime, we are providing (at our expense) catered meals on a nightly basis for our residents.  

The Gas Company’s so-called Supervisor is a rude, short-tempered toad who while on the job site has spent more time arguing with his wife over his cell phone than answering direct questions from our team of personnel and plumbers.  In fact, after I left the job site on Saturday, I attempted to reach him by telephone.  When I asked why out of 43 properties and over 30 years of experience we had never experienced the gas company simply deciding to shut the gas off, his response was “I’m not going there”.  At this point, he slammed the phone down into our Manager’s hands and walked off.  Some Supervisory behavior that is.  Individual technicians who are not licensed and or qualified experts in the field should not have the authority to determine and ultimately dictate whether or not gas should or should not be turned on.  At the end of the day, it is not just us (the owner/operator) that this effects.  Our tenants and their families have all been significantly impacted as well