As winter storms wreak havoc across the central and eastern United States, leaving more than 40 million people under a severe storm threat, power outages have become a pressing concern.
With thousands already experiencing electricity loss, many turn to portable generators for a semblance of normalcy. However, using generators improperly poses significant risks, including electric shock, fire, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Here are essential tips for safely utilizing portable generators during power outages:
Install Battery-Operated Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Carbon monoxide, a silent and odorless gas produced by generators, poses severe health risks. Installing battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms with digital readouts helps monitor CO concentration levels. This precautionary measure is crucial to avoid symptoms like headaches, dizziness, weakness, vomiting, and even potential fatalities.
Disconnect Normal Power Source
Before connecting a generator to a household circuit, turn off the main breaker or fuse of your normal power source. Failure to do so can lead to back-feed, where electrical current travels back to the power grid, endangering utility workers and neighboring buildings. Disconnecting the main power source is a critical safety step.
Position Generators Safely
Generators are meant for outdoor use only, requiring placement at least 20 feet away from doors, windows, and vents. Running a generator inside a home or garage, even with open doors or windows, can lead to lethal consequences. Proper grounding is essential to prevent shocks and electrocutions, following guidelines from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Keep Generators Dry
Operating generators in dry environments on dry surfaces is paramount for safety. Standing in water while operating a generator poses significant dangers. Using a canopy or similar structure during rainy weather protects the generator from water exposure, preventing potential hazards.
Directly Plug Equipment into Generators
When connecting appliances directly to generators, use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords with the appropriate wire gauge. Avoid daisy-chaining extension cords, as this may lead to fire hazards. Plugging equipment directly into the generator ensures a safe and efficient power supply.
Manage Fuel Carefully
Proper fuel management is essential for generator safety. Store fuel in approved containers in a cool, dry place, away from heat sources. Gasoline or diesel fuel stored for over a month may require stabilizers to remain usable. Turn off the generator and let it cool before refueling to prevent potential fires.
Regularly Inspect and Maintain Generators
Regular inspections of above-ground storage tanks, pipes, and valves are crucial for generator maintenance. Any signs of damage, cracks, or leaks should prompt immediate replacement. Keep fresh fuel in the tank and run the generator intermittently to ensure readiness during emergencies.
By adhering to these safety guidelines, individuals can confidently use portable generators during power outages, mitigating risks and ensuring the well-being of themselves and their communities.
Do you own a generator? If not, why not? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.