Insurance and Finance

How to Safely Use Your Generator

By Lisa Martin 12.17.14

In a time when weather patterns are uncertain and related power outages are increasingly common, it’s more important than ever for consumers to consider an alternative form of power.

As many as 70 percent of all power outages are weather-related, with strong winds and storms accounting for most of them. A backup power generator can ensure that your home’s essential systems keep running.

However, portable generators also have the potential to cause serious injury and even death, and should always be handled with extreme caution and care. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, some 84 portable generator-related deaths occurred in 2011 alone.

What Are the Dangers?

“Many homeowners are unaware that the improper use of portable generators can be risky. The most common dangers associated with portable generators are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrical shock or electrocution, and fire hazards,” says Lauren Backstrom, a spokesperson for the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association.

Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agents also advise precaution when using a portable generator. “Portable generators can be enormously important to anyone who relies on electronics at home in a health situation,” says Travis Askew, a Texas Farm Bureau Insurance agency manager in Granbury. “But you always need to be aware of ventilation when you’re using them. And refueling improperly can cause serious problems too.”

How Can I Use It Safely?

Follow these tips from the American Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Fire Protection Association to ensure your safety during a power outage:

  • Never use a portable generator indoors, including in a garage or barn.
  • If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air right away.
  • Never connect a portable generator directly to your home’s wiring or to a vehicle.
  • Don’t overload your generator; each unit comes with a specific rating explaining just how much it can power.
  • Keep a safe distance from the generator while it’s in use, as it may grow exceedingly hot.
  • Only use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated power cord to power the generator.
  • Refuel the machine as carefully as you would a car — don’t spill!
  • Store fuel for the generator in an approved safety can.

Find more advice here for storing flammable liquids

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