The Complete Guide to Safely Storing Gasoline
In every household that uses gasoline for lawn mowers, chainsaws, generators, or any other machinery, the safe storage of gasoline is a matter of utmost importance. Gasoline is a volatile substance; improper storage can lead to dangerous spills, vapor build-ups, and even fires or explosions. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the best practices for safely storing gasoline, minimizing risks, and ensuring that you are prepared and protected.
Understanding Gasoline’s Risks
Before diving into the storage guidelines, it’s crucial to understand why gasoline requires such careful handling. Gasoline vapors are highly flammable and can be ignited by sparks or flames. The vapors are heavier than air and can travel along the ground to an ignition source, leading to a fire or explosion far from the gasoline’s actual location.
Choosing the Right Containers
The first step in safe gasoline storage is using the appropriate containers. Containers approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are designed specifically for gasoline.
- Material: Choose containers made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or metal. These materials are designed to withstand the chemicals in gasoline and prevent static buildup.
- Size: Residential users should opt for containers no larger than 5 gallons, which are easier to handle and less likely to spill.
- Color and Labeling: Use only red containers for gasoline, as this color is universally recognized for flammable liquids. Ensure they are clearly labeled to avoid any confusion with other substances.
- Features: Look for containers with flame arresters, which prevent a flame from traveling into the container and causing the vapors to ignite. Also, ensure they have a tight-fitting cap to prevent spills and vapor release.
Proper Filling Technique
When filling your gasoline container:
- Do it Outside: Always fill gasoline containers outdoors to avoid inhaling fumes and to reduce the risk of vapor accumulation.
- Ground the Containers: Place the container on the ground before filling to avoid static electricity buildup that could lead to sparks.
- Don’t Overfill: Allow room for the gasoline to expand, especially in warm weather. This means not filling the container to the brim, but up to about 95% capacity.
Location, Location, Location
Choosing the right location for storing gasoline is pivotal to safety.
- Cool and Ventilated: Store gasoline in a well-ventilated area, away from living spaces. A detached shed or garage is ideal. The area should be cool and out of direct sunlight to reduce the pressure build-up inside the container.
- Away from Electricity and Heat: Keep gasoline away from any potential sources of heat or sparks such as water heaters, electric power tools, or any other appliance that could ignite the fumes.
- Secure from Children and Pets: Ensure that the storage location is out of the reach of children and pets to prevent accidental ingestion or spills.
- On the Ground: Always store gasoline containers on the ground, not on a shelf, to minimize the distance they could fall if knocked over and to keep them at a stable temperature.
Storing Gasoline Long Term
Gasoline can degrade over time, which can harm engines. To keep it fresh:
- Use Stabilizers: If you plan to store gasoline for an extended period, especially over the winter, add a fuel stabilizer to prevent oxidation and phase separation. This can extend the life of the gasoline for up to 12 months.
- Rotate Stock: Use older gasoline first to prevent it from sitting too long. This is where having several smaller containers can be beneficial, as it’s easier to rotate through them.
- Keep Containers Sealed: Tight seals prevent oxygen from getting in and gasoline from getting out. Check regularly to ensure the caps are secure and the containers are not leaking.
Responding to Spills
Even with the best precautions, spills can happen. Here’s what to do if you spill gasoline:
- Evacuate the Area: Remove everyone from the vicinity of the spill.
- Ventilate: If the spill is indoors, open doors and windows to disperse the fumes.
- Contain and Control: Use absorbent materials like sand or kitty litter to control the spread of the gasoline.
- Clean Up: After the gasoline has been absorbed, safely dispose of the material in accordance with local regulations.
Legal and Environmental Considerations
Be aware of the legal aspects of storing gasoline. Many localities have specific codes and regulations governing the quantity and manner of gasoline storage. Moreover, improperly stored gasoline can have severe environmental impacts if it leaks or is disposed of incorrectly. Always follow local regulations for storage and disposal.
Fire Safety and Extinguishers
In the unlikely event of a fire:
- Have an Extinguisher: Keep a class B fire extinguisher nearby, which is suitable for flammable liquids like gasoline.
- Know How to Use It: Ensure you understand how to use the extinguisher before an emergency occurs.
- Never Use Water: Water will not extinguish a gasoline fire and can spread the flames. Only use a suitable extinguisher or fire-fighting technique.
Regularly inspect your gasoline storage containers and area to ensure they remain safe. Look for signs of wear, rust, or damage to containers. Check that the area remains well-ventilated and that there are no new sources of heat or sparks nearby.
Disposing of Gasoline
If you have old or contaminated gasoline, do not pour it on the ground or into a drain. Contact your local hazardous waste disposal center for guidelines on how to safely dispose of it.
Safely storing gasoline is an essential practice for any household that uses it. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your home is safe and that the gasoline will be ready to use when you need it. Remember that the key to safety is diligence and consistency in following proper storage procedures. With these practices in place, you can confidently and safely use gasoline-powered equipment for all your needs.