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During a disaster, fuel is an invaluable resource. The problem is that everyone else needs it as badly as you do, and supplies are limited. That’s why any time a natural disaster strikes, the lines at gas stations seem to stretch on forever. Even if you do have the time and patience to sit in one of those lines, there’s no guarantee that there will be any fuel left when it’s your turn.
For this reason, it’s important to keep a stockpile of fuel. However, contrary to what you may have seen in shows like The Walking Dead, fuel doesn’t last forever, especially if it isn’t stored correctly. To help you get the most out of your fuel storage, we’ve put together a guide to making your fuel last as long as possible.
Buy Plenty and Use it Sparingly
The first and most obvious tip to making your fuel supply last is to stockpile as much as you can and only use it in emergency scenarios. There’s never any way to know how long a disaster and the aftermath of that disaster is going to last, and even the most well-informed experts often underestimate this duration. With fuel storage, as with most aspects of disaster preparedness, it’s a good idea to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
While your fire code may limit how much fuel you are able to store, always store as much as you are allowed. Remember, though, that you are going to have to replace your fuel periodically, so make sure you are only storing as much as you can reasonably afford to replace at least once a year.
Types of Fuel to Store
Gasoline isn’t the only type of fuel to stockpile. Depending on what type of machinery you own (and whether or not you will need this machinery in a disaster scenario), you may want to stockpile diesel as well.
In addition to this, consider setting aside fuels such as kerosene and propane which can be used for light, heating, and cooking purposes. Even if you don’t rely on these fuels in your day-to-day life, they may prove incredibly valuable in a disaster scenario.
Containers for Storing Fuel
It’s a good idea to always store your fuel in approved containers, not only for legal purposes but also because these containers are designed to protect the fuel from the outside elements and extend its shelf-life. Luckily, fuel containers come in a variety of sizes, and you can always store multiple containers if you need more fuel. When filling your containers, never fill them above 95% capacity. This allows a little room for the fuel to expand. Make sure the cap is screwed on tight and you’re good to go.
Where to Store Your Fuel
First and foremost, be sure to keep your fuel containers well away from any ignition sources such as water heaters, space heaters, or furnaces. 50 feet is the recommendation for how far away fuel should be stored from ignition sources such as these.
Second, store your fuel in a cool, dry place that is out of direct sunlight and well-ventilated to prevent fume buildups. Heat and sunlight cause the fuel to evaporate, so be sure to keep it near room temperature. Likewise, if there’s too much moisture in the air, that moisture can seep into the fuel and render it ineffective.
With that said, don’t store your fuel inside your home as the fumes may cause some problems. Instead, keep it in a shed or garage that you have easy access to. If you are storing your fuel on concrete, be sure to place a piece of plywood underneath the container. That way if any fuel spills, the plywood will soak it up and you won’t have standing puddles of fuel, which are a big fire hazard.
Lastly, make sure to keep your fuel away from any pets or children to avoid having them accidentally tip your container over and spill all your precious fuel.
Add Fuel Stabilizers
By far the best way to extend the life of your fuel is to add a quality fuel stabilizer. Fuel stabilizers contain antioxidants and biocides in order to slow the fuel from breaking down and prevent microbial growth in the fuel. As soon as you purchase fuel that you intend to store, your first step should be to treat it with a fuel stabilizer produced by a trusted brand such as STA-BIL. Follow the instructions on the bottle to make sure you are adding the right amount for the volume of fuel you’re storing.
Rotate Your Fuel as Needed
The sad reality is that even if you do everything right, fuel isn’t going to last forever. It’s a perishable product that you are going to have to replace from time to time in order to ensure it will work when you need it to. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule for how long gasoline and other fuels will last. Their shelf-life is dependent on too many factors. On average, though, gasoline will last 3-5 months without a fuel stabilizer and 6-9 months with one.
Diesel can be stored for 6-12 months, and kerosene also lasts about 6-12 months. Propane, on the other hand, does not degrade like other fuels and can hypothetically be stored indefinitely. What often happens in reality, though, is that the seals on the propane take degrade as the years go by and the propane leaks out. When storing fuel, be sure not to overestimate how long it will last. Replacing your fuel storage can be costly, but it’s better than it not working when you need it most.
Fuel may not be as much of a survival necessity as food and water, but it can still mean the difference between life and death in the right scenario. While most all fuels save for propane are perishable, proper fuel storage techniques can help extend the life of those fuels as much as possible and ensure that you have fuel available when and if disaster strikes.