Mechanic Carlos Fernandez tests a generator that was brought in for repair at Blast Off Equipment in West Palm Beach.
Photo: Richard Graulich / Palm Beach Post
Photo: Richard Graulich / Palm Beach Post

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

Freezing temperatures coupled with sleet and snow can be a surefire recipe for power outages.

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

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), 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 percent of all portable generator-related carbon monoxide deaths occurred during the winter months (November-February), according to ESFI.

What's more, 69 percent 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 (CO), 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 re-fueling, 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.

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