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Power outages: safe generator use

Power generators are a popular way for small businesses to maintain power supply during outages, but their use is not without risks. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has produced a useful checklist to help ensure safe generator use.

Risks of generator usage include fire, damage to electrical equipment, and even injury or death. The following guidelines are essential to the safe use of a generator:

• Proper ventilation is critical to reducing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from a gasoline-powered generator’s engine exhaust. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a common, serious danger that can cause death if generators are used improperly; this is particularly true when the fuel is not burned completely.
- Never use generators indoors or outside near windows, vents, or air intakes that could allow CO to come indoors.
- Maintain plenty of air flow space around the generator.
- Get fresh air immediately if you begin to feel flu like symptoms, sick, dizzy or light-headed.
- Because CO is invisible and odorless, if possible, business and/or building owners should get and use a CO detector to warn of rising CO levels.

• Carefully follow all instructions on properly “grounding” the generator.

• Keep the generator dry. If needed, place the generator under an open canopy type structure. Short circuits may occur in wet conditions; this can cause a generator fire.

• When it comes to generator fuel,
- store fuel in an approved container or holding tank designed for such use;
- only use fuel that is specifically recommended in the owner’s manual;
- never store fuel indoors;
- do not keep fuel near the generator while the generator is in use – this could start a fire;
- never refuel the generator while it is running; and,
- always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher nearby.

• To avoid electric shock or electrocution, do not try to fix or otherwise work on a generator without following standard lock out, tag out procedures prescribed by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure that the generator power supply is off and may not be accidentally turned on.

• Keep cords out of the way to avoid injury, but also keep cords in plain view to keep track of cord damage (such as fraying or cuts) that could cause a fire.

• Do not ‘back feed’ power into your electrical system by plugging the generator into a wall outlet.
- Back feeding will put you and others, including utility line workers, at serious risk because the utility transformer can increase low voltage from the generator to thousands of volts.
- Some states have laws making the generator owner responsible for taking steps to make sure that the generator’s electricity cannot feed back into power lines; also, owners of commercial, industrial, or residential generator must notify the local utility of their locations.

• The exterior portions of a generator, even if operated for only a short period of time, can become hot. Avoid touching the generator without protective gear and keep debris clear to avoid a fire.

DisasterSafety.org

•Date: 8th September 2011 • Region: US/World •Type: Article • Topic: DR general

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