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Stockpile Fire Safety Considerations, by AVL

Hazardous materials storage laws can affect your intended stockpile. The survival mantra is “Be Prepared!” to this end; it is often necessary to have stockpiles of materiel that may come in handy in case of an emergency. Most conversations about such stockpiles talk about food, water, clothing, and of course gasoline, ammunition, gunpowder, primers etc. While there are currently no limits as to what quantity of food, water, and shelter you can store, gasoline, ammunition and firearms are another story entirely.
What is considered hazardous material?
A hazardous material is anything that may adversely affect your safety or the safety of those around you. Normally this might be considered acids, flammables, strong bases, oxidizers, fine particulates (asbestos) or radioactive materials.
Hazardous materials fit into a number of classifications based on their affect on health, flammability, and chemical reactivity. This is defined by the NFPA 704 diamond (National Fire Protection Agency) that you will often see on buildings indicating the danger posed by chemicals contained inside.
Why should I be concerned?
A number of the materials you may be considering stockpiling, or have already stockpiled may fit into one of the above categories. Substances such as gasoline, gunpowder, primers and small arms ammunition are considered hazardous. Because of this, most local, state, and even federal governments have set limits as to how, and how much of each material may be stored.
Gasoline, smokeless powder, primers, and small arms ammunition are all flammable and can be dangerous in the presence of heat, sparks or rough treatment. Gasoline, gunpowder, and primers should not be stored together! Gunpowder over 20 lbs should be stored in a portable magazine; this makes it mobile, safe, and legal. Store primers in a similar manner and in small quantities to avoid chain detonation.
Don’t forget, there may be other things in your emergency stock that can cause fire. Potassium Iodate is an oxidizer and should be stored away from flammables.
Due to the regulations, you must carefully consider how you will store these valuable commodities in a way that will not put your property in danger of fire, or government seizure.
The regulations
Smokeless Powder:
At present, few local and state governments set limits on storage of small arms ammunition, or reloading components (Shell casings and projectiles are not counted, just powder and primers). However, the federal government through the NFPA has set limits.
Transportation in private vehicle: 20lbs – 50lbs in a magazine with walls of 1” thickness
Storage in private residence: 20lbs – 50lbs in a magazine with walls of 1” thickness
The NFPA does not seem to have any limits on the quantities of primers stored or transported; however, certain states do impose limits such as Massachusetts, where it is illegal to posses more than 1000 primers without a license. However, the license is reasonably priced.
Other states impose possession limits on small arms ammunition; the most draconian was again Massachusetts, with a limit of 10,000 rounds of rim fire ammunition, 10,000 rounds of center fire, and 5,000 rounds of shotgun ammunition. While neither a federal, nor a preponderance of state regulations could be found. It should be expected that quantities exceeding these will likely garner significant attention from authorities. You should check your local laws regarding this matter.
Gasoline is a fairly easy commodity to store, put it in an airtight container and put it away, rotate every few months. However, the Uniform Fire Code (UFC) sets limits on how much you can stockpile.
Gasoline is required to be stored in UL listed containers (Underwriters Labs). Most commercially sold containers meet this requirement and are available in 1,2 and 5 gallon sizes. The next size up container is a 60-gallon drum. However, UFC does not allow the storage of more than 25 gallons on your premises. [JWR Adds: The limit cited is for private residences. Many farms and ranches have commercially built exterior gasoline tanks–either above or below ground–in capacities that range up to several hundred gallons or even larger. Consult you state and local laws before buying a tank.]
Solutions for the savvy stocker
Based on these limits, there is a fair amount of flexibility as to what you stock. 50 lbs of gunpowder will make 7500 rounds of .308, 15000 rounds of .223 or 80000 rounds of .45 depending on how you load. So keeping your larger cartridges as your stockpile of loaded ammunition gives you a lot more mileage.
For example, keeping 10,000 rounds of .50 BMG loaded with a powder that could be used in .308 and .223 would be ideal, this way it can either be ammunition, or just a storage container. [JWR Adds: Pay close attention to powder burning rates and pressure curves. Powder that is suitable for large volume cases is not always appropriate for large cartridges. Follow published loading data scrupulously!] Only primers must be stockpiled, which are small, lightweight, and can be spread out and hidden in many areas easily. Limits are not imposed on reloading components such as cases or projectiles, so these can always be stored without a hassle.
Currently, the regulations are on a per-premises basis. The regulation isn’t clear whether this is one property, or a single dwelling. However, it opens up the possibility of storing multiple caches on any property you own. This could provide several lifetimes worth of ammunition if done right.
Gasoline presents similar issues, however, unlike gunpowder and primers, gasoline is bulky and doesn’t lend itself to being broken up. However, the UFC does not place any stipulation on carrying fuel in vehicles. The ideal solution here is to have several large vehicles with large tanks which in an emergency you could quickly move the gasoline into your bug-out-vehicle, storage tank for your generator, or just drive off with it in the vehicle.
Survival is a game that goes back to the origins of life itself. As organisms became more advanced they were able to ensure their survival through behavior. The strongest survival advantage in mammals is gained through cooperation and division of labor.
The ultimate stockpile you can create is to have your friends and neighbors stockpile in the same way you do, when the balloon goes up, and there’s no one around to tell you, you’re not allowed to have 26 gallons of gas, trading elements among your friends and neighbors can give you the things you need, and give them the things they need.
While cooperation is essential, operational security is also necessary. Pick and choose those you wish to be part of this carefully. Perhaps recommend quantities to associates, but do not comment on your own preparations. The first thing that happens when you are prepared and others are not never leads to a happy ending. – AVL