With windy weather in the early spring leading to power outages lasting for hours and sometimes days, many homeowners turn to portable electric generators, to keep the refrigerator running and the family comfortable.
But as families enjoy the benefits of the emergency power the generator supplies, they need to keep in mind the risks associated with improper use of the equipment.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the most common dangers involving generators are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrical shock or electrocution, and fire hazards. CO deaths associated with generators have increased in recent years as generator sales have risen.
Many homeowners are unaware that the improper use of a portable generator can be risky. Portable generator mishaps can be avoided if proper precautions are followed.
The NFPA and Pleasant Gap Fire Company recommend some simple safety tips that residents can follow to avoid portable generator accidents.
• Generators should be operated in well ventilated locations outdoors away from all doors, windows and vent openings.
• The generator should be located so that exhaust fumes cannot enter the home through windows, doors or other building openings.
• Battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with a battery back-up should be installed in the home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. Should CO enter the home and pose a risk, an alarm will sound.
• The generator must not be refueled while it is running. The generator should be turned off and allowed to cool down before refueling.
• Fuel for the generator should never be stored in the home. Gasoline and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled safety containers. They should be stored away from any fuel-burning appliance such as a gas hot water heater.
• Appliances should be plugged directly into the generator or a heavy duty outdoor-rated extension cord. The cord should be checked for cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. The house wiring should not be powered by plugging the generator into a wall outlet.
• If the generator must be connected to the house wiring to power appliances, a qualified electrician should install a properly rated transfer switch in accordance with the National Electrical Code® (NEC) and all applicable state and local electrical codes.