After the Storm: 10 Generator Safety Tips

When power is out following a major storm, many businesses and homeowners rely on backup generators until power is restored. While power generators are useful and often necessary to maintain operations and a comfortable environment, they also include hidden dangers that include fire, electrical equipment damage and even death. Before operating a generator at work or at home, it’s important to be aware of the risks and what precautions to take.

10 Tips to Stay Safe when Using a Generator:

  1. Be aware of hazards: Awareness is key to safe generator use. Common hazards include shocks and electrocution from incorrect use, carbon monoxide (CO) from a generator’s exhaust, fires from improper refueling or fuel storage, and noise/vibration hazards.
  2. Proper ventilation is key. According to consumer reports, 50 people die every year from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning related to using a generator improperly. Do not use a gasoline-powered generator less than 15 feet from any window, door or vent, and don’t run a generator in a garage even with the door open.
  3. Purchase a CO detector. Because carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, CO detectors warn people of dangerous levels.
  4. Stay Grounded. Always follow instructions in the owner’s manual on how to “ground” the generator.
  5. Keep it clear of debris and dry. Clear 3 to 4 feet around the generator to create airflow space to avoid a fire. Never run generators in the rain or when wet. Place the generator either in a dry area or under an open canopy structure.
  6. Avoid electrical hazards. Plug appliances directly into the generator. If you must use an extension cord, it should be 3-pronged, grounded, heavy-duty and labeled for outdoor use.
  7. Organize your cords. To avoid slips, trips and falls, keep cords out of the way but in plain view. Check cords regularly for damage (such as cuts or fraying) that could cause a fire.
  8. Do not “back feed” power by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. Back feeding will put you and others, including utility workers, at serious risk for electrocution and/or electrical fire risk.
  9. Hot. Hot. Hot. Even if operated for a short time, generator exteriors can become hot very quickly. If you must touching the generator, wear protective gear. To avoid electric shock or electrocution, do not try to fix or otherwise work on a generator while it is on or plugged in.
  10. Be prepared and aware. Always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher nearby. If you or others show symptoms of CO poisoning – light-headed, dizzy, tiredness or nausea – go outside immediately for fresh air and seek medical attention.

Generator Fuel Storage Reminders:

  • Only use fuel recommended in the owner’s manual.
  • Keep fuel in an ANSI-approved container away from the generator.
  • Store outdoors in a cool, well ventilated space – never indoors.
  • Do not fuel the generator while it’s running.

To download a printable copy of this Safety Tip, click here. For major storm and hurricane preparedness tips, including the latest smartphone apps and what’s needed to assemble an emergency prep kit, view our post on ways to prepare for hurricane season.