As industry experts and government officials beg drivers in the Southeast not to hoard gas, another plea is coming from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: "Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline."
"We know this sounds simple, but when people get desperate they stop thinking clearly," the commission tweeted on Wednesday. "They take risks that can have deadly consequences. If you know someone who is thinking about bringing a container not meant for fuel to get gas, please let them know it's dangerous."
The directive comes as two-thirds of the gas stations in North Carolina and nearly half of Georgia's and Virginia’s stations are out of gas, according to the latest data GasBuddy, with outages quickly spreading across the Southeast and up the East Coast. Drivers up and down the Atlantic are defying appeals from experts to stop panic-buying and filling up anyway after the nation's largest pipeline shut down following a hack over the weekend.
Videos and images have flooded social media this week of people using non-material grade containers, such as plastic grocery bags, to haphazardly fill up on gasoline. One Twitter user recounted how, during a gas shortage when he was a teenager, he had to police the public at the gas station where he worked from using the pumps to fill up anything that wasn’t a vehicle or proper container — including a mayonnaise jar.
Best practices for handling the highly flammable and potentially dangerous liquid include that it “should only be stored when absolutely necessary in an appropriate container” and best kept to “5 gallons or less,” according to Exxon Mobil.
Translucent containers like plastic or glass let in light and degrade gas, underscoring the reason why the commission advises gasoline should be kept in “only containers approved for fuel” and there should be room left in the container to accommodate for some expansion.
Storing gasoline or diesel fuel poses a danger to household members and neighbors. Fuel should be stored in a well-ventilated and room temperature detached shed or garage, away from all heat sources with at least a 50-foot buffer from ignition sources like pilot lights.
“Gasoline vapors are heavier than air and can travel along the floor to ignition sources,” Exxon Mobil posted on its website.