Severe weather can do more than just chill the air — it creates a demand for heat and power that can overload the electrical grid causing widespread and lengthy power outages. When the power goes out, portable generators can be a great way to save refrigerated food, provide warmth, and otherwise offer a means to stay in the home comfortably. But improper use of generators can result in injury (and even death) so it is critical to know how to use them safely. Here are some tips to ensure safety for you and your loved ones when using a generator:
– Set up the unit in an outdoor area far away from doors, windows, vents, and other openings that could allow CO to enter the home. Running the generator inside a home, or even close to open windows creates a risk of exposure to poisonous carbon monoxide gas emitted by the engine.
– Use a battery-operated CO alarm in the home to insure that the air indoors is safe. If you, or anyone in the home starts to feel dizzy or weak, get to fresh air immediately.
– If you must operate the generator when it is wet outside, run the unit in an open, canopy-like structure on a dry surface to reduce the risk of shock or electrocution. Also, be sure your hands are dry before attempting to touch the unit.
– Turn the unit off and let it cool for a few minutes before attempting to refuel and wait until any spilled gasoline has evaporated before running the engine again.
– Give the generator a clearance of 5 feet on all sides (including overhead) to prevent a fire from starting and be sure the unit is not running near combustible materials.
– Do no attempt to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. This is extremely dangerous as it causes the electrical current to “back feed”, or flow in the opposite direction. This presents an electrocution risk to utility personnel who are working to restore power and also poses a risk to neighbors served by the same transformer.
– Store your generator fuel in an approved safety can outside of living areas in a locked shed or other protected area. Be sure the fuel is not in proximity to a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater, as it is possible for invisible vapors to seep out and be ignited by the unit’s pilot light.