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Generator safety

Learn to use generators safely to prevent fires, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and electrocution

Generators can be helpful when the power goes out for an extended period of time. It is important to know how use them safely to prevent fires, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and electrocution.

Purchasing and preparing to use a generator

picture of a green generator with safety tips
  • Purchase one that has been approved by a nationally recognized testing agency such as Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL).
  • Have a licensed electrician install a transfer switch. Never plug a generator directly into a wall outlet to avoid backfeeding which can electrocute utility workers.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before you need to use the generator.
  • Install working CO alarms on every level of the home.

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Using a generator safely

  • Place the generator outdoors facing away from doors, windows and vents. Never use a generator inside a house, basement or crawl space – not even inside a garage with the door open. When possible, place the generator 5-10 feet away from the house.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator or use heavy-duty, outdoor rated extension cords, not to exceed the number of outlets on the generator. Make sure cords are free of cuts and tears and have all three prongs – especially the grounding pin.
  • Keep the generator dry. Operate on a dry surface under an open canopy or tent.
  • Dry your hands before touching the generator.
  • Let the generator cool before refueling. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts can ignite.

Store and transport gasoline safely

  • Transport gasoline standing upright, in an approved container in the trunk of your car or back of a pick-up truck. You can transport a maximum of 21 gallons without a permit from the fire department, provided no single container exceeds 7 gallons.
  • Store gasoline in a shed or detached garage away from the house. Never store gasoline inside a home or an attached garage. Secure the shed or garage if possible, and keep flammable liquids out of reach of youngsters.
  • Store gasoline far from any fuel burning appliance such as a furnace, water heater or woodstove. Vapors can travel back to their ignition source and ignite.

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