Stories of gasoline hoarding raise fire safety concerns

With the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 45% of the East Coast’s gasoline, being shut down since a ransomware attack on May 7, gas prices on the East Coast of the US have risen above three dollars a gallon and continue to rise. Because of this, many people are scrambling to fill up gas tanks in their cars, and to even fill up unsafe containers in case the shortage continues.

To be clear, gasoline should never be transported in a vehicle or in anything other than a listed, labeled, and approved container with a cap. The sealed container eliminates vapors from escaping and potentially connecting with an ignition source and causing fire or an explosion. Last week a Hummer in Florida went up in flames after the owner fueled up at a gas station; the incident is currently under investigation but four five-gallon containers full of gasoline were found in the back of the Hummer.

If gasoline must be transported in a vehicle, follow these required safety practices for use and storage of flammable liquids:

  • Transport only a small amount in a listed gas can that is sealed.
  • Keep a window open for ventilation.
  • Gas cans (or propane cylinders, for that matter) should never be transported in the passenger compartment.
  • Drive safely to avoid an accident.

These same precautions should also be used when gasoline is stored at home. These same listed, labeled, and approved containers with a cap are the only suitable way to store gasoline in garages and sheds. Do not store gasoline in the living space of a home. And never store these containers in areas where an open flame – like those associated with a natural gas water heater or furnace – would be located.

Should a vehicle catch fire, while transporting gasoline or otherwise, keep NFPA Car Fire Safety practices in mind, which state, in part:

  • Pull over as quickly as it is feasible, using your signal as you make your way to a safe location off the road such as the breakdown lane or rest stop.
  • Once you have stopped, turn off the engine.
  • Get everyone out of the car.
  • Move everyone at least 100 feet from the burning car and well away from traffic.
  • Call 9-1-1.
  • Never return to a burning car for anything.

The latest version of the Educational Messages Advisory Committee (EMAC) Desk Reference contains information and guidance on ignitable (flammable and combustible) liquids, in general. It recommends the following:

  • Store gasoline in a tightly capped container that has been listed, labeled, and approved for gasoline.
  • Store the container outside the home in your garage or garden shed, never in your basement.
  • Do not store hazardous liquids near any source of heat, sparks, or flame. That includes electric motors, which can spark when they switch on or off.
  • Never dispense gasoline into a portable container while it is located inside a vehicle or in the bed of truck.
  • Never bring gasoline indoors, even in small quantities.

NFPA 1 Fire Code prohibits the dispensing of gasoline and other flammable liquids into containers that are not listed or approved for such use. These containers are designed, constructed, and tested to ensure their closures prevent leaks of liquids and vapors. Like the aforementioned safety recommendations, The Fire Code also requires the container to be properly marked with the contents, and not fueled while inside any vehicle.

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Mike Puzzanghera
Mike Puzzanghera
Public Affairs Intern

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