Generators - whether portable or permanent - can come in handy during long-term power outages caused by severe weather. But if not used correctly, a generator can be very dangerous. As your safety connection, we want to help you use this equipment safely.
First, it’s important to select a qualified vendor or electrician who can help you determine whether a portable or a permanent generator is best for your home. Unless you’re a licensed electrician, installing a permanent generator is never a DIY project. This type of generator must have a transfer switch that prevents energy from leaving your generator and going back out onto the utility’s electrical equipment, or “back-feeding.”
Back-feeding can be fatal to a line worker or others near downed power lines. Only a qualified professional should install your generator and transfer switch to connect the equipment directly to your home’s wiring.
If using a portable generator, keep these tips in mind:
• Before using any generator, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Operate the generator outdoors in an area with plenty of ventilation, because it gives off exhaust that contains carbon monoxide. Even if you can’t smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to carbon monoxide. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get fresh air right away. Consider
installing battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms. In fact, more deaths associated with Hurricane Laura were caused by the improper use of portable generators than the storm itself, according to an article on NPR's website. Eight of the 15 hurricane-related deaths confirmed by the Louisiana Department of Health are attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators.
• Keep it dry. An ideal location to operate a generator is under an open, canopy-like structure on a surface where water cannot form puddles or drain under the generator. Help minimize the risk of electrical shock during moist or wet weather by using a generator only when necessary, and always dry your hands before touching it.
• Avoid back-feeding. NEVER plug the generator into the wall. Instead, use a heavy-duty extension cord to plug appliances into your portable generator. Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. Only a licensed electrician should connect a generator to a main electrical panel by installing the proper equipment according to code. Also, make sure the electrician installs an approved disconnect switch, so you can safely disconnect your home’s wiring from the utility system before using the generator.
• Turn the generator on before plugging appliances into it. Once the generator is running, avoid overloading it. Prioritize your needs and turn on necessary appliances and lights one at a time.
• Turn the generator off and be sure it’s cool before fueling it. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
• Keep children and pets away from generators. Components get hot during operation.
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