Due to hurricanes that have affected our community, generators have become a common household item. However, along with the spike in generator sales, there has been a spike in generator-related emergencies such as Carbon Monoxide poisoning, structure fires from generator explosions, burns and other injuries. Most of these emergencies were preventable.
When operating a generator, remember:
- Store fuel in an approved container, holding 5 gallons or less, in a cool, dry, ventilated and secure area, away from appliances. Keep it out of the reach of children.
- All gas-powered engines emit Carbon Monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless gas that can build up to fatally toxic levels. Generators must only be operated outside of inhabited structures in a well-ventilated area away from windows, doors, vents or other openings.
- If you're going to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a generator, pay an extra $20 to $30 for a CO detector.
- Ground your generator according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
- Never operate a generator on the balcony of a multi-unit structure. The boundaries of most balconies force you to place the generator too close to your own living areas, as well as those of your neighbors.
- Never attempt to refuel a generator while it's running or while it's still hot. Turn it off and allow it to cool before adding fuel. Take extreme care not to spill fuel onto the generator or the surrounding area.
- Read your generator's manual very carefully. Follow all directions and pay close attention to the electrical load rating. Never overload the generator.
- Never attempt to connect a portable generator to the main electrical panel in your home. Not only is this very dangerous for occupants, it is also fatally dangerous for electrical workers who are trying to restore power.
- Carbon monoxide fumes emitted from the generator are toxic and can be lethal.
- Do not burn charcoal or gas grills inside a house, garage, vehicle, tent or fireplace.
- Install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms or plug-in carbon monoxide alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer's installation instructions.
- Test your alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.
- Remember that you cannot see or smell carbon monoxide, and portable generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly.
- If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air right away.
- If you have a poisoning emergency, Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911 immediately.
If you're done with your generator, here are some tips for safe storage:
- Store the generator in a dry, well-ventilated area with the fuel tank empty.
- Give it a good cleaning before storing. Remove traces of oil, dirt and other foreign matter.
- Do not store near fuel supplies.
- Do not store near appliances such as water heaters or pumps, especially if they are gas-powered.
- When you pull your generator out after any storage period, remember to inspect it carefully for broken or missing parts.
- Don't store your generator too far out of reach.
- Wear a hard hat and goggles to protect yourself against flying splinters and chips. You should also wear hearing protectors.
- Do not wear slippery shoes or baggy clothing that could catch in the brush and cause you to fall.
- Always watch your footing while working.
- Stop the engine and do not smoke when refueling your chainsaw.
- Do not spill gas on a hot engine.
- Use a filtering funnel or a gas can with a flexible hose to fill the fuel tank.
- Shut off the chainsaw when carrying it from one tree to the next if working conditions are hazardous (heavy brush, slippery ground surface or steep slopes).
- Carry the chainsaw with the guide bar pointing to the rear, or point the bar to the front if you are going downhill.
- Even if you do not need an assistant, someone should be with you in case of an accident.
- Have a first-aid kit nearby.
- If someone is cut, cover the wound with a clean cloth and press hard to stop the flow of blood. Get the injured person to a doctor or hospital immediately.
Hurricane season, especially the peak of hurricane season, occurs during the hottest months of the year. Because of that, you should take special care to remain as cool as possible if loss of power leaves you without an air conditioner.
- Drink plenty of cool fluids throughout the day, but avoid those that contain caffeine, alcohol or a high sugar content, since they actually contribute to dehydration and make a heat-related illness worse.
- Stay in a cool, well-ventilated area and limit your outdoor activities.
- Don't forget your animals, and provide them plenty of fresh water.
- If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, even with the engine running.
- Check frequently on the elderly, young children and others at higher risk for heat-related illnesses.
Call 911 immediately if you or anyone in your home feels the following:
- Muscle cramps
- Extreme thirst
- Fainting or unconsciousness
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Rapid shallow breathing
- Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit)