Learning Center

Portable Generator Safety

Powerful tips for portable generator safety.

Portable generators can be a reliable and beneficial source of electricity when storms or disasters cause power outages. But unsafe use of such units can be dangerous and deadly.

Case in point: from 1999 to 2010, nearly 600 generator-related carbon monoxide (CO) deaths were reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Additionally, in recent years, CO poisoning related to generator use has caused an average 81 deaths per year.

Don’t become another statistic — follow these measures to prevent death, property loss and damage due to the improper use of portable generators.

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

  • To prevent CO fumes from entering your home, always use generators outside and away from windows, doors and vents.
  • Never use generators in enclosed areas.
  • Make sure your home has CO detectors, and test them regularly.
  • If you feel sick, dizzy or light-headed when using a portable generator, get fresh air immediately.

Reduce electrocution risks

  • Use your generator in a dry area, and keep it under a canopy-like structure.
  • Always dry your hands before you touch a generator.
  • When using your generator to power other electrical equipment, use a heavy-duty outdoor-rated electric power cord capable of handling the total electrical load needed. Make sure the cord is free of cuts and tears, and has all three prongs.
  • Never “back feed” your home’s electrical system by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. This can put you and others, such as utility workers in the area, at risk of being electrocuted.

Avoid fire hazards

  • Store fuel for your generator outdoors in an approved container.
  • Keep fuel away from the generator while it is being used.
  • Do not refuel your generator while it is running.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher close by when using your generator.
  • Keep debris away from a hot generator.

Above all, make sure you thoroughly read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your generator. By using common sense and heeding these precautions, you can safely take full advantage of the convenience and reliability of your portable generator.

Sources: U.S. Fire Administration and the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety

These recommendations were developed using generally accepted safety standards. Compliance with these recommendations is not a guarantee that you will be in conformance with any building code, or federal, state or local regulation regarding safety or fire. Compliance with these recommendations does not ensure the absolute safety of your occupation, business or residence. It is the property owner’s duty to warn any tenants or occupants of the property of any safety hazards that may exist.

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