Static electricity can ignite fuel
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[MARCH 22, 2004]
SPRINGFIELD -- After a
recent fire set off by static electricity, the Office of the Illinois State
Fire Marshal cautions motorists about the potential threat of fires at the
gas pumps. The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal, the American
Petroleum Institute and the Petroleum Equipment Institute are reminding
motorists to follow all safe refueling practices during their routine
gasoline tank fill-up and to avoid potential problems with static
electricity at the gas pump by staying outside the vehicle during refueling.
Static electricity-caused fires at the
pump are extremely rare. In fact, Americans pump gasoline into their
cars an estimated 11 billion to 12 billion times a year, generally
without incident. But static electricity may build up when a
motorist re-enters the vehicle during fueling and slides across the
seat. When the motorist returns to the nozzle, the static may
discharge at the fill point, potentially igniting gasoline vapors
and causing a flash or a small sustained fire. Potential problems
with static electricity at the pump may occur any time of year, but
most typically incidents have occurred when the air is cool and dry.
Although static electricity-related refueling fires are rare,
according to the American Petroleum Institute and the Petroleum
Equipment Institute, these incidents have caused a few injuries and
some property damage.
The primary way consumers can avoid
static electricity problems at the gas pump is to stay outside the
vehicle while refueling. It may be a temptation to get back in the
car for any number of reasons. But the average fill-up takes only
two minutes, and staying outside the vehicle will greatly reduce the
likelihood of any buildup of static electricity that could be
discharged at the nozzle.
[to top of second column in
If you experience a fire when
refueling, leave the nozzle in the fill pipe of the vehicle and back
away. Leaving the nozzle in the vehicle will prevent any fire from
becoming much more dangerous. Notify the station attendant
immediately to shut off all dispensing devices and pumps. If the
facility is unattended, use the emergency shutdown button to shut
off the pump, and try to summon help.
If you must re-enter your vehicle
during refueling, be sure to discharge any static that may have
built up before reaching for the nozzle again. Static may be safely
discharged by touching a metal part of the vehicle, such as the
vehicle door or some other metal surface away from the nozzle, with
a bare hand.
Consumers can minimize these and other
potential fueling hazards by following safe refueling procedures all
year long. Always put portable gasoline storage containers on the
ground to fill them, and keep the nozzle in contact with the rim of
the container. Never allow children under licensed driving age to
operate the pump.
information on avoiding potential problems with static electricity
buildup at the pump, refueling safety, and safe fuel storage and
handling guidelines, visit
[News release from
the Office of the State Fire