Portable Generator Safety

Winter is on its way and with winter comes ice storms and power outages. The National Fire Protection Association and Consumer Product Safety Commission recommend the following safety tips in preventing loss of life and property when operating portable generators:

Follow manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Never use generators in the house, garage, crawl spaces or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas even with ventilation.
  • Never use generators near doors and windows; this can allow carbon monoxide (CO) to enter the home.  Place generators as far away from the home as possible.
  • As an additional safety factor, install carbon monoxide alarms in home, outside sleeping areas, and on every level of the home, e.g. battery-operated or plug-in with battery back-up.  When a CO alarm sounds, it is a warning to occupants that poisonous gases may be in your home.  If you feel sick, weak or dizzy, immediately get to an area with fresh air. Within minutes, CO poisoning can lead to incapacitation and death.
  • Test CO alarms frequently and change batteries as needed.
  • Use UL listed/marked outdoor extension cords to connect to the generator.
  • Do not overload cords; check for the generator’s maximum wattage listed on the product and/or label.
  • Keep children and pets away from the generator and fuel.
  • Never connect generators to other power sources, i.e. power lines; this can create a reverse flow of electricity and can electrocute a utility worker unaware of the connection.
  • Do not connect the generator directly into your home’s electrical system through a receptacle outlet – this is an extremely dangerous practice that poses a fire hazard and an electrocution hazard to utility workers and neighbors served by the same transformer.
  • If using a generator, plug individual appliances into heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cords and plug cords into the generator.
  • Ensure that the extension cords have a wire gauge adequate for the appliance loads and have all three prongs, including a grounding pin.
  • Keep charcoal grills outside.  Never use them indoors. Burning charcoal in an enclosed space can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Fire Hazards

  • Do not refuel the generator while it is running or when hot; turn the generator off, let it cool before refueling.
  • Always place stored fuel in non-glass containers with appropriate labels.
  • Always store fuels outside living areas and away from fuel-burning appliances.
  • In preparing for unexpected emergencies, review the manufacturer’s instructions and test the generator, at least once a month, to ensure it is in proper working condition.

Reports submitted to the Consumer Product Safety Commission indicate that each year, approximately 400 deaths from non-fire CO poisoning are generator-related.  As sales of portable generators increase, so will the number of occurrences and deaths unless safety precautions are taken.

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One Response to “Portable Generator Safety”

  1. Wow 24 hours operation of electricity and nice idea that prepare a portable Generator for an emergency..

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