As crews work to restore power outages in the wake of Hurricane Ian, it is important to review generator safety measures to prevent further disaster. While generators can save lives after storms by powering medical equipment and other devices, there are also several potential hazards from generator misuse including carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrocution, fire, and toxic engine exhaust.
It is extremely important to follow the directions supplied with the generator. For fixed, installed generators, be sure to hire a licensed electrician to complete the work. The electrician will connect to your house wiring using a transfer switch to prevent your generator from back feeding utility lines and causing possible damage to your generator when power is restored.
Generators should be kept dry and not used in rainy conditions. They should be set up away from all open windows, doors or vents, including neighbors’ windows and be at least 20 feet from the house.
Some reminders for portable, gasoline-powered generators:
Connect appliances directly to it, rather than wiring the generator directly to your breaker or fuse box
Turn off all connected appliances before starting your generator
Never exceed a generator’s rated wattage
Turn off the generator and let it cool down before refueling
Ensure you have plenty of gas for operation stored safely in gas containers
Don’t leave running generator unattended; turn it off at night and when away from home
Check that the heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord is free of cuts and tears and that the plug has three prongs, especially a grounding pin
Install CO alarms throughout your home to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide
Newer generator models may feature a built-in sensor that triggers automatic shut off if CO builds up to a dangerous level in an enclosed space.
Generator safety video from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FEMA which includes American Sign Language: youtube.com/watch?v=n7GIOzABRHA.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration information about how to use portable generators safely at osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/portable_generator_safety.pdf.
CDC carbon monoxide video at cdc.gov/co/ or call 800-232-4636.