Generator safety: Some tips on using it correctly

The Volusia County Government has issued this notice about generator safety.

Placement is key. Never use generators indoors or outside near windows, vents, or air intakes that could allow carbon monoxide (CO) to come indoors. This can be fatal.

On Sept. 5, there were bare shelves where the generators are displayed at The Home Depot in Lady Lake as buyers prepared for Hurricane Irma. The store was out of generators and water early.
(STEPHEN M. DOWELL/ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS)

Use proper care. Proper ventilation is critical to reducing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator’s engine exhaust. CO poisoning is a common, serious danger that can cause death if generators are used improperly; this is particularly true when the fuel is not burned completely.

Keep other items clear. Maintain plenty of air flow space around the generator.

Pay attention. Get fresh air immediately if you begin to feel sick, dizzy or light-headed or experience flu-like symptoms.

Buy a CO detector. Because CO is invisible and odorless, buy a CO detector (similar to or sometimes combined in a smoke detector) to warn of rising CO levels.

Ground your generator. Carefully follow all instructions on properly “grounding” the generator.

Keep it dry. Short circuits may occur in wet conditions, which can cause a generator fire.

If needed, place the generator under an open canopy-type structure.

Be prepared. Always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher nearby.

Leave it to the professionals. To avoid electric shock or electrocution, do not try to fix or otherwise work on a generator.

Organize your cords. Keep cords out of the way to avoid injury, but keep them in plain view to keep track of cord damage (such as fraying or cuts) that could cause a fire.

Do not back-feed power. Do not plug the generator into a wall outlet. Back feeding will put you and others, including utility line workers, at serious risk because the utility transformer can increase low voltage from the generator to thousands of volts.

Don’t touch. It’s hot. The exterior portions of a generator, even if operated for only a short period of time, can become hot. Avoid touching the generator without protective gear and keep debris clear to avoid a fire.

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