Storing up gas

We are heading to the end of the 2012 hurricane season and many readers may already be starting to breathe a sigh of relief. It seems like we are going to make it through without a scratch – let’s hope the feeling is right, after all, it only takes on weather system to cause havoc.

But even as we give thanks for our fortune so far, many a handyman, carpenter or others involved in manual labour will readily admit it is not unusual to build a whole shed and pound your own finger on the very last nail, or to move a whole load of sand on your own and hurt your back with the last scoop.

Keeping that in mind, today we look at an issue that has become very relevant since Sandy hit the US a few weeks ago – storing gas for your car of generator. Even today many Americans have to line up for gas and rationing is still taking place in some areas. This situation may influence some here to avoid this potential challenge if the island is impacted by a storm, by storing large volumes of gas in their homes. We know that gas stations will not dispense gas if the customer does not have the correct storage container, but how should we handle that container once we get it home?

And how dangerous is it to store fuel in a plastic container in our homes for the duration of the hurricane season?

Here’s how one Miami agency responded to the issue:

If you waited in long lines to get the fuel, the first thought might be to keep it on hand for the next storm, but experts say that may not be the best choice for safety, and for the good of your generator.

Like many products, gasoline has a short shelf life. It’s not something most people think about, because most gasoline goes from production to your car’s tank within a matter of weeks, but fuel experts say after a few months, the components in gasoline can break down. Using gasoline which has destabilised may cause your generator not to start when needed, and could actually damage your expensive investment.

If the container or gas tank will not be used right away, will be exposed to direct sunlight, or will be stored at temperatures above 80? F much of the time, add a fuel stabilizer/additive to the gasoline when you first buy it, prior to storage. These additives are available at auto parts stores.

Many manufacturers of engines used in generators put restrictions on the amount of time gasoline should be stored before use in engines.

Gasoline keeps longer if it is stored in a cool place and the container is kept almost 95 per cent full. However, leave some headroom for gasoline to expand if it warms up in storage.

Do NOT store gasoline in your house. Limited quantities may be kept in your garage in proper containers, but large quantities stored in a garage can be an extreme danger.

Even proper treatment of stored gasoline does not eliminate the risk of fire, especially if you store larger amounts of fuel.

The largest fuel storage container should be of no more then five gallons.

Fire officials say small amounts of gasoline for lawn mowers and yard tools, in the proper containers, can safely be kept in most garages when stored properly. However, with many people bringing home four- or five-gallon containers of gasoline to feed their generator, the level of risk increases dramatically.

* The best way to store gasoline is in a well ventilated area separate from the house.

* The location should have no electrical equipment, open flames or other sources of ignition present.

* The location should be protected from the heat of the summer sun to keep evaporation to a minimum.

* Do not store gasoline in the utility room. A water heater, clothes dryer or any of several other items could ignite fumes which may leak from the can and travel considerable distances.

* If you do not have a suitable storage area, consider building a cabinet outside your house for storage or purchasing a commercially available flammable liquid storage cabinet, available from safety equipment suppliers.

* Once a month check for leaks from fuel tanks, engines, or storage containers.

If you have safety doubts, just use the gas in your car and refill the storage container when the next storm threatens.

But the experts say if you choose to store gasoline, you need to realize it is one of the most dangerous substances you will have at your home, and balance the risk of having a highly explosive chemical on your property versus the reward of not having to refill the tanks when a storm threatens.

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