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Generator Safety

Mistakes have the potential to be deadly.

Now that hurricane season is here, you may be considering buying or borrowing a generator. Generators can be quite helpful in restoring your power, but can also cause serious damage. Before firing up your generator, make sure to take these precautions provided by Palm Beach County.

• Ensure you have the correct cords and connectors.
• Don't fill the fuel tank until right before the storm. (It can grow stale and is unsafe in a hot garage.)
• If your generator uses a battery rather than a rope pull, ensure the battery is kept charged.
• Protect the generator from coming in contact with water, and don't let any protection impede air flow that cools the engine and generator.

Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they also can be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. Every year, people die in incidents related to portable generator use. Most of the incidents associated with portable generators involve CO poisoning from generators used indoors or in partially-enclosed spaces.

NEVER use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas and is difficult to detect. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home. Follow the instructions that come with your generator. Locate the unit outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors. Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer's installation instructions. Test your CO alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.

NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as "backfeeding." This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.

Follow these tips to prevent fires: NEVER store fuel for your generator in the home. Gasoline, propane, kerosene, and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly-labeled, non-glass safety containers that are strapped down securely prior to the storm's arrival. Do not store them near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage. If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and can be ignited by the appliance's pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.

Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.

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