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Portable Generators Safety Tips

While useful, temporary tools when the power is out, portable generators can be dangerous, resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. IPL does not recommend the use of portable generators, but if you are going to use one, be sure to follow all safety rules and manufacturer's instructions carefully. Here are a few safety tips for dealing with portable generators:

  • Never use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
  • Place the generator outdoors and away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. 
  • Keep the generator dry and do not use it in rain or wet conditions. Operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. 
  • Never plug the generator into a wall outlet. Power can “backfeed” into the line and injure utility workers who thought the line was dead as well as neighbors served by the same utility transformer. Plugging a generator into a wall outlet also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices. 
  • DO NOT connect a portable generator to your home's wiring system without first having a certified electrician disconnect your home from the utility service and install the appropriate equipment to prevent "backfeeding." Electricity feeding back into IPL lines from portable generators can damage a home's electrical appliances, cause a fire, or cause injury or death to IPL linemen or your neighbors served by the same utility transformer. Portable generators are designed to provide limited electricity.
  • Follow all manufacturer’s instructions and make sure your generator is properly grounded.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator. Or, use a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Be sure the cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. 
  • Do not overload the generator. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for maximum load.
  • Never store fuel for your generator in your home. 
  • Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite. 
  • Turn off all equipment powered by the generator before shutting it down.
  • Install battery-operated or plug-in carbon monoxide alarms with battery back-ups in your home. Test these alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.
  • Keep children away from generators.
  • Keep appliance or extension cords connected to the generator outside out of the way and do not run them under rugs or carpets.

Adapted from a report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
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