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    "Shocking" News

    PEI defuses rampant email about static electrical pump fires.

    TULSA, Okla. -- Bob Renkes and his staff at the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) couldn't believe it.

    Their Web site, not exactly as popular as a Britney Spears' home page, was flooded with hits and more hits. More than 12,000 one week last month, followed by 19,500 the next. Not bad considering the site rarely yields more than 2,500 to 3,000 in a typical week.

    The rage? Pump fires.

    An alarmist e-mail had wended its way through cyberspace, landing on scores of lists. After describing the dangers caused by motorists who go directly from the car to the pump, the unknown author concluded, "I ask you to please send this information to ALL your family and friends, especially those who have kids in the car with them while pumping gas. If this were to happen to them, they may not be able to get the children out in time. Thanks for passing this along."

    Kids plus fire equals a powerful equation for action.

    "We're happy the word is getting out, but it's important to realize that these incidents are infrequent," Renkes, PEI's executive director, told CSNews Online. PEI has been researching the sources behind the fires and recently issued a report for equipment operators called "Recommended Procedures for Testing Electrical Continuity of Fuel-Dispensing Hanging Hardware."

    Also, PEI and the American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents major oil companies, are launching a Stop Static campaign, informing motorists how they can prevent dispenser fires.

    As a result of the fast-spreading e-mail, PEI posted the following link on its home page: "Don't believe everything in that e-mail, get the facts."

    Click on and the next message reads: "The e-mail you may have received did not originate from PEI. Remarks regarding cellular phones, gender and footwear are inaccurate. Refueling fires that appear to be started by static electrical discharge are detailed in our report."

    To review the report, go to www.pei.org.

    ABOVE: The Petroleum Equipment Institute and the American Petroleum Institute are launching a Stop Static campaign to inform motorists how they can prevent dispenser fires.

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