The recent PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events have increased our community’s use of portable generators. Generators can be a great temporary solution to keep power energized, however many community members are unaware of the risks of generator use including carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from toxic exhaust, electric shock, electrocution and fire.
The City of Arcata would like to share some important safety tips on how to properly use a portable generator.
- Always follow the directions supplied with a generator.
- Never use a generator, camp stove, grill or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area.
- Generators must be used in well ventilated locations outside. Always place a generator at least 20-feet from a living space with the engine exhaust directed away from windows, doors and other openings. Never use a generator in an attached garage, not even with the door open.
- Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home. Even if you cannot smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get outside to fresh air immediately. High levels of CO can cause death in a matter of minutes.
- Install CO alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Test the batteries frequently and replace whenever necessary.
- To avoid electrocution, keep generators dry and do not use them in rainy or wet conditions. Operate generators on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, and never touch a generator with wet hands.
- Turn off a generator and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts can cause a fire.
- Store generator fuel in an approved safety can, and only use the type of fuel recommended in the instructions or on the generator’s label. Store fuel away from living spaces in a locked shed or other protected area. To guard against accidental fire, do not store fuel near a fuel-burning appliance like a natural gas water heater in a garage.
- 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. Cords should be checked for cuts, tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
- Don’t backfeed. Backfeeding is when you attempt to power a building’s wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet. This dangerous practice is an electrocution risk to utility workers and your neighbors served by the same utility transformer. Backfeeding also bypasses some built-in household circuit protection devices, which could result in frying some of your electronics or even starting an electrical fire.
For more safety tips, please call our Building and Engineering Department at 707-825-2128.