How to safely use a generator (and how NOT to use one)

Incorrect use can result in carbon monoxide poisoning or death
Mechanic Carlos Fernandez tests a generator that was brought in for repair at Blast Off Equipment in West Palm Beach.

Credit: Richard Graulich / Palm Beach Post

Credit: Richard Graulich / Palm Beach Post

Mechanic Carlos Fernandez tests a generator that was brought in for repair at Blast Off Equipment in West Palm Beach.

Freezing temperatures can be a surefire recipe for power outages.

With reports of inclement weather in metro Atlanta, having a portable generator — and using it safely — could mitigate potentially dark, cold days.

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, the solid-performing, temporary power sources are helpful when facing the ills of Old Man Winter, but if used incorrectly can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning or electric shock.

In fact, 50% of all portable generator-related carbon monoxide deaths occurred during the winter months (November-February), according to ESFI.

What’s more, 69% of the fatalities known to have occurred in the home and involving generators occurred when a generator was placed in the living area or basement of the home, according to ESFI.

ESFI offers a comprehensive generator safety and generator installation tips list for consumers to shed light on the dangers and precautions to take when using generators:

• Never operate a generator inside your home or in other enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. Generators can very quickly produce high levels of carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.

• Make sure your home is equipped with a battery-operated or battery back-up carbon monoxide alarm.

• Opening doors and windows or operating fans to attempt to ventilate a generator will not prevent carbon monoxide build-up in the home. Even with a working CO alarm, you should never use a gasoline-powered generator inside your home or in a garage.

• Get to fresh air right away if you feel dizzy or weak.

• Do not overload the generator.

• Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord.

• Make sure extension cords used with generators are rated for the load and have three-pronged plugs.

• Turn off all appliances powered by the generator before shutting down the generator.

• Make sure fuel for the generator is stored safely, away from living areas, in properly labeled containers and away from fuel-burning appliances.

• Before refueling, always turn the generator off and let it cool down.

• Keep children away from portable generators at all times.

For more on generator safety, visit the ESFI website or Georgia Power’s website.

About the Author