cartoon of a gas pump

With the majority of gasoline stations being “self serve” these days, most of us take pumping our own gas for granted. Always remember these four simple rules for safe fueling:

  • Turn off the engine.

  • Don’t re-enter the vehicle during fueling.

  • Don’t smoke.

  • Don’t use your cell phone either leave it inside the vehicle or turn it off.

Static electricity-caused fires at the pumps are extremely rare, but they do happen, causing injuries and property damage. Static electricity may build up when a motorist re-enters the vehicle during fueling and slides across the seat. When the motorist then returns to the vehicle fill pipe during or at the end of re-fueling, the static may discharge at the fill point, potentially causing a flash fire or a small sustained fire with gasoline refueling vapors. In Maine’s cold winter, it’s tempting to start the pump and jump back in the vehicle to keep warm. Don’t. The average fill-up takes only two minutes and staying outside the vehicle will greatly minimize the likelihood of any static build-up. If you absolutely must get in your vehicle while filling up, make sure that when you exit, you close the door while touching its metal surface. Doing this should remove static electricity from your body and then, and only then, should you remove the filler nozzle from the fuel tank.

Common sense says don’t smoke, light matches or lighters while refueling at the pump, or when using gasoline anywhere else.

You see signs at gas stations that say no cell phones. Your cell phone user guide likely warns you to “Switch off" in restricted areas, including in aircraft, near medical equipment, fuel, chemicals or blasting areas. While it seems there are not any verifiable incidents of a cell phone causing a fire at a gas station, the fact is that a gas station is a “class one” area. That means there are explosive vapors. Under the National Fire Protection Association rules, you’re not supposed to use electronic materials at gas pumps. Many fire codes say you can’t use a cell phone there. To keep safe, don’t use any electronic device at filling stations or when fueling lawn mowers, boats, snow blowers and other equipment.

In the rare event a motorist experiences a fire when refueling, leave the nozzle in the fill pipe of your vehicle and back away from the vehicle. Notify the station attendant immediately. If the facility is unattended, use the emergency shutdown button to shut off the pump and the emergency intercom to summon help.

When dispensing gasoline into a container, use only an approved portable container and place it on the ground. Containers should never be filled while inside any vehicle or vehicle's trunk, the bed of a pickup truck or the floor of a trailer. Fill a container slowly to decrease the chance of static electricity buildup and to minimize spilling. Allow for expansion fill a container no more than 95% full.

Follow safe refueling guidelines all year long.