Do’s and Don’ts of Generator Safety

By Donna Mills

Backup power from generators can be helpful when storms, natural disasters or accidents cause unexpected electrical power failures—but it also can be hazardous. Improper operation of a generator can result in shock, electrocution, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fire.

PSREC urges members to avoid electrical, CO and fire hazards by following manufacturer’s guidelines and safety instructions when operating generators. If you do not have the manual or instruction booklet that came with your generator, contact the manufacturer before operating the unit.

NEVER wire a generator directly to your electrical panel. Generators connected to house wiring must be done by a licensed electrician through a transfer switch or transfer panel. Without a properly installed National Electric Code-approved transfer switch, your generator endangers the lives of utility crews working on power lines.

NEVER plug a generator into a wall outlet, which can backfeed into the utility grid and pose an electrocution risk to utility workers and nearby neighbors.

Protect the generator from moisture and always operate on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure, away from building openings and where water cannot reach, puddle or drain under it. Always dry hands, if wet, before touching the generator.

Connect appliances directly to the generator using heavy-duty extension cords specifically rated for outdoor use. Inspect the entire extension cord for cuts and tears. Make sure the cord has all three prongs, including the grounding pin. Ensure the wattage rating for each cord exceeds the total wattage of all appliances connected to it. Protect cords from becoming pinched or crushed when passing through windows and doorways. Monitor cords carefully to prevent overloading, overheating and fire hazard.

Choose a generator that produces more power than you will actually use because of the increased wattage used when appliances initially start up.

NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds or similar areas—even when using fans or opening doors and windows. Deadly
levels of CO can build quickly, and linger for hours—even after a generator is shut off. Locate the unit far away from windows, doors and vents that could allow CO to enter the living space.

NEVER store fuel for the generator in the home or near fuel-burning appliances. Store outside in properly labeled, non-glass containers.

Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool to prevent spilled gasoline from igniting on hot engine parts.

If you or someone in your home has special medical equipment, please contact the PSREC office at 800-555-2207 during normal business hours and ask to be put on the Life Line List. Please provide us with a land line or cell phone number as wireless phones do not work without electricity. If someone in your home depends on electric-powered, life sustaining equipment, make a plan for backup power.

Our thanks to our fellow Touchstone Energy Cooperatives for many of the tips included in this article.

GeneratorGenerator Safety Tips

Never connect a standby generator into your home’s electrical system. There are only two safe ways to connect a standby generator to your equipment.

Stationary Generator:

An approved generator transfer switch, which keeps your house circuits separate from the electric co-op, should be installed by a professional.

Portable Generator:

Plug appliances directly into the outlet provided on the generator.

Set up and run your generator in a well-ventilated area outside the home. Make sure it’s out and away from your garage, doors, windows and vents. The carbon monoxide generated is deadly.

Use a heavy-duty extension cord to connect electric appliances to the outlet on the generator.

Start the generator first before connecting appliances.