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Four Rules for Avoiding a Gasoline Explosion at the Gas Pump

The Petroleum Equipment Institute wants everyone to be aware of fires caused by "static electricity" at gas pumps. PEI company has researched 150 of these fires.

PEI's VERY STRONG recommendation is to NEVER get back into your vehicle while fueling it.

If you mistakenly get in your vehicle while the gas is pumping, be sure to
touch a metal part of the car, far from the gas filler, prior to touching the
gas nozzle. This will safely discharge the static electricity.


Here's an important question to consider: If you need to use a portable fuel container, do you know how to do it safely? It's a task that must always be done with safety in mind, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the American Petroleum Institute and other safety and fuel experts.

"Gasoline fumes are volatile. Static electricity can create a spark that
could cause a fire if it's near gasoline fumes," said Commissioner Harold
Hairston of the Philadelphia Fire Department, and past chairman of the
Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association.

Spring and summer bring many situations that may call for transporting
gasoline or other liquid fuel in portable fuel containers, including for
cars, lawnmowers, generators, boats, jet-skis and other vehicles and equipment

"Grounding is essential to avoid any build-up of static electricity that
could pose a risk," said Hairston. "Make sure the fuel container is grounded and stays grounded."

Basic safety steps for filling a portable fuel container, according to NHTSA, include:

Place the fuel container (use only an approved container) on the ground,
outside the vehicle, to help ground the container.

Keep the pump nozzle in contact with the container when filling, until
filling is complete. That helps maintain grounding. Slightly tilt the nozzle
so it touches the rim of the container, rather than placing it dead center.

Don't use an automatic pump handle device -- fill the container manually and slowly. That helps decrease the chance of static electricity build-up as well as spilling or splattering.

Don't smoke when filling a portable fuel container.

Grounding, simply put, provides a path for the electric current to discharge safely -- the electricity is dissipated into the ground.

"Every time you pump gasoline, a charge of electricity builds up on gasoline as it flows through a pipe or hose and this charge takes several seconds to several minutes to dissipate after the gasoline has reached the tank or container," explains Bob Renkes, executive director of the Petroleum Equipment Institute.

Additionally, static electricity could build up when gasoline is flowing into
the container. That's why it's important to keep the pump nozzle in contact with the fuel container. That contact sets up a connection between the pump, which is grounded, and the container, to help make sure the container stays grounded.