Southern California Gas Co. announced on Thursday that the cause of an overwhelming gas odor in West LA was not the result of a gas leak, but rather a spill of natural gas odorant.

Residents began calling the company just after 9 p.m. Wednesday night, alerting them of a strong smell which prompted crews from the company to rush to the intersection of Pico Blvd. and Overland Ave. The spill occurred at Hillcrest Beverly Oil Corp. located just off West Pico Blvd. in West LA. Odorant is used to give natural gas a distinctive smell so that leaks can be easily detected.

Entrance to Hillcrest Beverly Oil Corp. in West LA. (Anthony Ciardelli/USC Annenberg Media)
Entrance to Hillcrest Beverly Oil Corp. in West LA. (Anthony Ciardelli/USC Annenberg Media)

Though the smell was eventually determined not to be natural gas, it did cause alarm within the community.

"I smelled it all day and then I drove down to Olympic Blvd. in Century City and I smelled it even more," said Kia Booth of Beverly Hills.  "It was a really strong pungent smell. I saw it on the news and I was a little concerned. I was wondering if they were going to evacuate us."

Destiny Oranday was working as a nanny in Cheviot Hills when she noticed the smell.

"It was intense, it made me feel a little light-headed," she said.

The false alarm highlights a number of household and community dangers when it comes to natural gas. According to the California Energy Commission, residential natural gas use spikes in the winter as home heating and cooking demands grow. Increased use of natural gas means an increase in household leaks which are extremely dangerous. They can result in explosions, and exposure to high levels can be deadly due to a reduction in oxygen intake.

Knowing what to do when you suspect a gas leak is vitally important. If you suspect a gas leak, Southern California Gas Co. instructs you to look, listen and smell. The company suggests looking for a damaged connection to a natural gas appliance, dirt or debris being blown into the air, a dry patch of grass in your yard or exposed pipeline after a disaster. They also instruct you to listen for a hissing, whistling or roaring sound and to try to detect a strong sulfur-like odor.

If you suspect a natural gas leak, call 911 and your local gas company, evacuate the area immediately and do not operate anything that could cause the gas to ignite, such as appliances, motor vehicles and cigarette lighters.

Large gas leaks, like the one that occurred in Aliso Canyon, can lead to symptoms including headaches, vomiting and nosebleeds, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. In cases like Aliso Canyon, which displaced 8,000 families, the best thing to do is to evacuate.