What You Need to Know About Generator Safety

While it is important to safely survive a storm, the importance of how to survive after the storm should not be overlooked.  After a severe storm, the power and electricity will likely take a good deal of time to return to normal, especially with roads closed to professionals who could repair power lines.  This is why many individuals invest in a generator, or sometimes known as, a genie.  A generator refers to a machine that makes electrical energy, consisting of wires that spin around a magnetic field.

However, because most people do not often require relying on a generator for power, it is easy to overlook and/or forget generator safety protocols, which should always be adhered to with such equipment.  Generator fatalities result in about 50 deaths per year in the United States. Generator misuse can lead to carbon monoxide deaths, injuries from close calls, and/or burns.

Here are some tips for running a generator safely:

  • Nobody should operate a generator in an enclosed space and/or indoors. Carbon monoxide can become trapped inside, and high exposure from improperly operating a generator can be fatal within 5 minutes. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the cause of most generator-related deaths.  The most common places in the household where individuals place a generator are in the basement or in the garage, which is never advised. 
  • A generator should always be placed at least 15 away from the house, as well as away from any windows and doors.
  • Unless it is covered and properly vented, do not run a portable generator in the rain.  There are appropriate tents and other such covering for a portable generator available online and in hardware stores.
  • Remember to turn off the gasoline, before refueling a gasoline-powered generator and let it cool.  Gasoline, when combined with hot engines, will ignite.  Also, letting the engine cool reduces the risk of burns.
  • Whenever the generator will be used for an extended period of time, it would be wise to buy extra fuel.  When accumulating extra gasoline, store it safely in an approved ANSI-container in a well-ventilated and cool environment.  Be sure to not store gasoline near, nor inside your house.  Adding a stabilizer solution to the fuel will allow it to last longer.
  • In terms of avoiding electrical hazards and in the absence of a transfer switch, the generator outlets are approved for use, as long as certain precautions are taken.  While appliances can be safely plugged into the generator, extension cords should be approved for outside use, as well as rated, in watts or amps, at the very minimum, to hold the weight of the attached appliances.  The extension cord must be free of plugs and have all three switches in tack, something that is critical to guard against shock if water has seeped into the appliances.
  • If you are going to have many items plugged into the extension cord, consider installing a transfer switch, which will cost around $500-900 with labor and is made for a 5,000-watt or higher generator.  The transfer switch, which should be installed before the next long use of the generator, connects the generator to the circuit panel and allows for hardwired appliances to be plugged in, which dismisses the need for extension cords.
  • Do not attempt to power your house’s electrical wiring by plugging a generator into an inside outlet. This is called backfeeding. The danger here is to utility workers, as well as your neighbors, who are served by the same utility transformer as you.  This process will also disable a house’s built-in circuit protectors, which could cause an electrical fire.

Quick Contact