TATIC ELECTRICITY RELATED FIRES gained national attention in the mid 1990's,
prompting the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) to take steps to educate the public
about the fire hazards related to the discharging of static electricity at gas pumps.
While it is tempting to re-enter a vehicle while it is refueling, especially in cold
winter temperatures, it is best to stay outside. Re-entering the vehicle, especially
during cool, dry weather conditions, can cause static electricity to build up and be
discharged at the nozzle, causing fire.
PEI offers the following basic rules for safe refueling:
- Turn the engine off (required by law in all, or most, states).
- Don't smoke (also prohibited in all, or most, states).
- Avoid re-entering the vehicle.
As of September 2004, PEI received 160 reports of static electricity related fires.
Many motorists became charged through friction caused by friction between clothing and
a car seat, causing an electrostatic discharge to the vehicles body, fuel cap, of the
According to PEI research, static electricity is the primary cause of fires at fuel
pumps. Although reports of fires related to cell phone usage have been widely circulated,
none of the investigated incidents were caused by cell phones.
For more information on static electricity build-up and refueling safety, visit
PEI's website at www.pei.org/static.