Static electricity has shocking effect at gas pumps

Static electricity most commonly is experienced when you receive a shock after shuffling your feet across carpet or when your hair stands on end after pulling off your winter hat. But when it’s experienced at a gas pump, that same static electricity can have a much more shocking result — a flash fire.

After investigating 150 reports of fires at gas pumps, the Petroleum Equipment Institute discovered that static electricity can ignite gasoline vapors.

When a driver re-enters his or her vehicle while pumping gas, this creates a buildup of static electricity. If the driver exits the vehicle without discharging the static and then touches the nozzle, the static charge can ignite.

The resulting fire can cause serious harm to the driver, the vehicle, the gas pump, and the surrounding buildings.

Follow these tips to avoid flash fires and stay safe while refueling your vehicle:
  • • Always turn off your engine, even in very cold temperatures.
  • • Never get back in your vehicle while you are refueling. If you need to re-enter your vehicle while the gas is pumping, make sure to exit the vehicle and close the door while touching the metal before touching the nozzle. This will discharge the static from your body.
  • • If a flash fire occurs while you are refueling, leave the nozzle in your vehicle’s fill pipe and alert the station attendant immediately. He or she will be able to turn off the pumps with emergency controls.