Danger of damaged fuel pump at gas station?

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suezek

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 21, 2010
Posts
84
Location
Durango, CO and Scottsdale, AZ
This week I was sitting on the patio at Toms Thumb Market deli in Scottsdale and was stunned to watch a woman in a UHaul truck tip a fuel pump at the adjoining gas station. She hit the pump by misjudging the rear swing on the truck. I sat there wondering if and when and how the pump was going to a) explode b) catch fire and if and when and how the other 12 pumps would do the same. Then I wondered if I should a) leave quickly or b) watch what happened next. My question now is what if I ever hit a gas pump, what is one supposed to do? When does one walk quietly inside to the attendant and when should you get the hey out of there? I certainly see the obvious if it is on fire or exploding but what about the moments in between? Should you move your coach away from the pump or not? If the attendant doesn't appear is one supposed to look for a shut off valve? If you move your coach are you leaving the scene of your accident and if you touch the shut off valve are you breaking some law?
I am praying of course that this will never happen to any of us.
 
The way the pumps are designed she is very unlikely to cause a fire doing that, Unless, of course, the fuel pump is on a "lot" in Hollywood.  All sorts of things blow up there that do not anywhere eles.

What may happen is the pump will shut off, or the attendent may well hit the kill switch.
 
Most states require that a KILL switch be installed where it is readily accessable to users; just press it! I'd drive away from the pump in any case, but if the pump is off there is little danger. OTOH, if it's running, run not walk to the KILL switch.

Ernie
 
suezek said:
This week I was sitting on the patio at Toms Thumb Market deli in Scottsdale and was stunned to watch a woman in a UHaul truck tip a fuel pump at the adjoining gas station. She hit the pump by misjudging the rear swing on the truck.

This sort of thing happens, in the greater scheme of things, fairly frequently, in the sense that if you are a repair tech for a petroleum distributor you'll end up fixing a couple of dispensers every month that have been hit by something.

I sat there wondering if and when and how the pump was going to a) explode b) catch fire and if and when and how the other 12 pumps would do the same.

There is a very real risk because modern fuel dispensers are fed by pressurized fuel  lines from in-tank submersible pumps.  We call them "gas pumps" out of habit because up until 1980s that's what they were, and they were fed by a suction line.  The new way of doing things is more reliable, but has greater risks in the event of a collision with a dispenser.

A former coworker of mine saw a gasoline dispenser take an unusually hard hit from an 18 wheeler driven by a rookie.  The dispenser was sheared clean off the island and there were geysers of fuel shooting up 20 feet in the air.  There was no fire.  It's rare for the collisions to be that dramatic.

Then I wondered if I should a) leave quickly or b) watch what happened next.

I would treat it like a gunfight, with the same attendant risks of 1) bodily harm, 2) misplaced blame, and 3) being subpoenaed.  I guess I wouldn't flee with the same degree of enthusiasm I would utilize for a methyl isocyanate leak.

My question now is what if I ever hit a gas pump, what is one supposed to do?

If you believe there is a fire hazard, use the emergency shutoff.  If the dispenser (gas pump) is fed by submersible pumps (as most are), there will be an emergency shutoff pushbutton visible from the dispenser location, at approximately eye level, clearly marked.  It may be protected by a piece of glass to discourage tampering, if so, smash the glass with a coffee cup or something else besides your hand.  Then push the button.

Absent a hazard, you will have to determine whether, in your personal moral system, you believe that the world will be a better place if your car insurance pays to repair the dispenser instead of Chevron's insurance paying to repair the dispenser.  Adjust your actions accordingly.
 
NFPA 30A requires a shear valve at the base of the fuel dispenser which stops the flow of fuel out of the tank and also stops the backflow of fuel out of the dispenser. So, the amount of fuel spilled should be minimal. I'd be interested in seeing a 20' fuel geyser. Lot's of things have to go wrong to make that happen, including probably having no roof over the fuel island which is pretty rare these days, 20 foot roofs are rare too. That must have been an ancient installation.

The emergency shutoff button should kill the pumps and electricity to the island/dispensers.

A call to 911 will bring a fire engine to appropriately contain any spilled fuel, and safely remove vehicles as needed, which may be in danger of making a spark which could ignite whatever fuel is spilled. I would not want to be the person who started their car to leave and caused a fire. Walk away or run depending on your comfort level, but don't make the problem worse.

Ken
 
bucks2 said:
NFPA 30A requires a shear valve at the base of the fuel dispenser which stops the flow of fuel out of the tank and also stops the backflow of fuel out of the dispenser. So, the amount of fuel spilled should be minimal. I'd be interested in seeing a 20' fuel geyser. Lot's of things have to go wrong to make that happen, including probably having no roof over the fuel island which is pretty rare these days, 20 foot roofs are rare too. That must have been an ancient installation.

It was in the 1980s in southern Illinois.  I used to work for a company that made point-of-sale equipment that would interface with the pumps, which was fairly innovative in those days.  At that time it was the largest installation, in terms of number of dispensers, we had, and it was a constant source of unique software problems.
 
Jammer said:
It was in the 1980s in southern Illinois.  I used to work for a company that made point-of-sale equipment that would interface with the pumps, which was fairly innovative in those days.  At that time it was the largest installation, in terms of number of dispensers, we had, and it was a constant source of unique software problems.
We used to interface with DCR's and pump heads, had to give it up as the manufacturers haven't a clue about how to write software...problems became more trouble than it was worth.
 
bucks2 said:
NFPA 30A requires a shear valve at the base of the fuel dispenser which stops the flow of fuel out of the tank and also stops the backflow of fuel out of the dispenser. So, the amount of fuel spilled should be minimal.
Ken

I thought there must be something like that. Everything has fail safe devices nowadays.
 
To clarify, I would never leave the scene entirely and would be responsible but was asking if one should get the coach away from the gas or fumes in case they ignite. In order to move the coach away from the danger, it appears that one would have to start the engine. Was the point here that starting the engine could cause the fuel/fumes to ignite?
 
Yes Suezek, the starter on either a gas or diesel powered rig is capable of creating sparks which could, in the right conditions set the whole thing off if it is gasoline spilled. Much less likely if it's diesel, but some danger still exists under certain conditions.

Ken

 
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