Static electricity

I recently read a news report of a vehicle fire at a gas station in Powhatan that was caused by static electricity. A quick thinking gas station attendant hit the emergency gasoline shutoff before a bad situation became worse. The vehicle owner stated that she attempted to remove the nozzle from her vehicle when the flash fire occurred. Fortunately, no one was injured in this incident.

Clothing, seat covers, our bodies, or a number of other situations can cause static electricity, where an electric charge accumulates on an insulated source. The result of the charge is usually a small shock. However, the arc caused by static electricity can be catastrophic in the abovementioned incident. It is important to be mindful of static electricity when putting gasoline into your vehicle. You want the charge to be delivered somewhere other than at the nozzle. It is important to remember that when gasoline burns that it is burning vapor and not liquid.

Other sources of static electricity are gas cans that slide on the bed of a truck and cell phones. You should not use cell phones while fueling anything. In fact, just being mindful that a static charge might exist, and discharging it in a safe place on your vehicle may prevent a freak fire like the one that occurred in Powhatan.

I want to go back to the proper and quick action of the gas station attendant. By shutting off the gas supply to the pumps, the attendant isolated and diminished the amount of fuel that would feed this fire. Emergency action plans are developed for the what-if situations. These situations mandate that employees are trained and ready to act when an emergency arises. Many people walk around in the fog of thinking that nothing will ever go wrong where they work.

The frequency of these types of fires is minimal, but no less catastrophic when they occur. We must learn from every fire that we hear about, whether it happened in Powhatan, Va. or Los Angeles, Ca. Depending on what happened as a result of the fire or emergency, the discussion may be a bit more sensitive, if the fire occurred in our area. The point is that we still need to talk about it, in order that we might prevent it from ever occurring again.   

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