Shining a Light on Generator Safety

Shining a Light on Generator Safety

Power outages occur for various reasons, including utility blackouts, downed power lines, and severe weather. During an outage, using a portable generator can help you meet your basic power needs, such as providing some lighting or keeping your fridge running and food from spoiling. However, improper use of a generator can pose safety risks, including fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you plan to rely on a generator the next time your lights go out, follow these safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association:

Generators should be used in well-ventilated locations outside at least 5 feet away from all doors, windows, and vent openings. Measure the 5-foot distance from the generator exhaust system to the building. Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.

Place generators so that exhaust fumes can't enter the home through windows, doors, or other openings in the building. The exhaust must be directed away from the building. Make sure to install carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for correct placement and mounting height.

Before refueling a generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Never refuel a generator while it's hot. Store fuel for the generator in a container that is intended for the purpose and is correctly labeled as such. Store the containers outside of living areas. When plugging in appliances, make sure they're plugged directly into the generator or a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord.

The cords should be checked for cuts and tears, and make sure the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. If you must connect the generator to the house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install a properly rated transfer switch with the National Electrical Code and all applicable state and local electrical codes.

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