Generators can provide peace of mind that your home will maintain power during blackouts and storms. By delivering power quickly and automatically, house generators enable homeowners to temporarily operate heating and cooling systems, televisions, computers, and other appliances during emergencies. And for critical infrastructure businesses like hospitals, nursing homes, telecommunications networks, and emergency response agencies, a standby generator can be a lifesaving necessity. But when generators are used improperly, they become a potentially deadly liability rather than an asset.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 900 people in the U.S. died between 2005 and 2017 from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning caused by portable generators. Generator-related accidents and injuries occur most frequently during power outages and storms. It’s easy to overlook safety measures for a piece of equipment you rarely use, and moreover, when you’re attending to cleaning up your home after a storm, being preoccupied can easily lead to misuse.
CO poisoning: Improper use or venting can cause the generator exhaust to release lethal levels of this colorless, odorless, tasteless, and toxic gas.
Shock and electrocution: In addition to normal electric hazards, when a generator user bypasses safety devices (e.g. circuit breakers and grounded plugs), accidents occur.
Fire hazards: When left running for extended periods, generators can remain hot after they’re turned off. Generator fuels (e.g. gasoline and kerosene) can spill on hot engine parts and ignite fires, causing burns and destruction to property.
Noise/vibration hazards: Hearing loss has been linked to the significant noise and vibration created by generators.
CO Poisoning Prevention
Shock and electrocution prevention
Plug appliances directly into the generator using manufacturer-supplied cords or heavy-duty extension cords for outdoor use rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Check the entire cord to ensure it is free of cuts and that the plug is grounded (three-pronged). The latter is critical protection against shock if water collects inside the equipment.
Never wire an emergency generator into your home’s electrical system without a certified properly installed transfer switch. Back feed from a generator can injure or cause death to a lineman at work.
Fire and burn prevention
Noise and vibration tips
Although emergency generators can reduce losses and speed the recovery process after a blackout or storm, it’s crucial to always follow safety precautions.