When a shortage of truck drivers resulted in empty motor fuel pumps in the United Kingdom, long queues formed and many motorists began panic buying.
The situation induced motorists to hoard fuel, a practice that brings with it a long list of fire risks. Many fire departments in the United Kingdom provided stern warnings of the dangers. Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service advised anyone looking to store petrol at home to follow correct storage protocols.
Hoarding additional quantities
North Yorkshire fire chiefs reminded motorists that petrol and other fuels give off vapors that are highly flammable. Essex County Fire and Rescue Service urged motorists not to panic-buy fuel following a weekend of long queues at the pumps.
Panicked motorists, concerned that the fuel supply will dry up completely
Hoarding of fuel was also a factor earlier this year when a ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline in the United States slowed gasoline supply and resulted in long lines at fuel stations throughout the South and along the East Coast. Panicked motorists, concerned that the fuel supply will dry up completely, tend to hoard additional quantities of fuel as a precaution against running out. Ironically, an increase in hoarding is often the major cause of a shortage because demand exceeds the usual consumption level.
Completely safer way
Gasoline (petrol) should always be stored in a suitable container, such as a ‘safety can,’ away from any heat source, and in a place with direct access to ventilation and open air. Heat can cause excessive pressure and the release of vapors if fuel is stored improperly. In unventilated locations, the vapors may travel to an ignition source. Vaporization of less than one-half pint of fuel is enough to fill a home garage with explosive vapors.
The fact is, despite any precautions, there is no completely safe way for consumers to store or hoard gasoline. It’s a dire truth for the woman in the United Kingdom who was recently seen filling up eight large jerry cans with fuel totaling £217 (almost $300). Tragic consequences in the past are a reminder of what is at stake.
Plastic trash container
There are limits to how much fuel can be stored in various jurisdictions
Seven members of a California family were badly burned when they tried to store fuel in a plastic trash container in a bedroom closet. Additional dangers include the possibility of gasoline poisoning, often from siphoning, and inhalation of gasoline into the lungs. Inhaling even a small amount can cause death from chemical pneumonia.
There are limits to how much fuel can be stored in various jurisdictions. In the United Kingdom, storage of up to 30 liters of petrol is permitted at home or at non-workplace premises. Larger amounts require notifying the local Petroleum Enforcement Authority (PEA). In the United States, storage of more than 5 gallons of gasoline is illegal in many areas.
Storage of extra fuel in the trunk, or boot, of a car, creates a risk of explosion if ignited by a spark or a rear-end collision. Dispensing fuel only into appropriate containers is also an issue.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Administration has warned consumers not to use plastic bags to collect gasoline. Several social media posts during the recent U.S. shortage showed people dispensing gasoline into plastic bags. Here are some additional precautions when storing motor fuel:
- Do not store fuel in living areas.
- Keep fuel out of reach of children.
- Do not fill containers beyond the designated capacity.
- Never pour fuel into drains or water.