State Fire Marshal’s Office Urges Safe Generator Use During Winter

Monday, January 05, 2015 | 11:54am

NASHVILLE – As winter temperatures plunge across Tennessee, home and business owners may rely on portable generators during occasional power outages to operate their electrical equipment such as heating units, computers, water pumps and lighting.

While portable generators can provide a quick fix, they can also pose unseen hazards that can have long-lasting effects. The State Fire Marshal’s Office reminds residents that following some basic, common sense tips can ensure safe generator use every time.

“If you plan on using an emergency generator, it’s essential that you take precautions for your safety and the safety of those working to restore power,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak.
Follow these tips for safely operating your portable generator:<?xml:namespace prefix = "o" /> 

  • Always read, follow, and save the manufacturer's operating instructions for your generator.
  • Engines emit carbon monoxide (CO). Never use a generator inside your home, garage, crawl space, or other enclosed areas. CO fumes are odorless and can quickly overwhelm you indoors. Only use your generator outdoors, away from open windows, vents, or doors that could allow CO fumes inside.
  • Use a battery-powered carbon monoxide alarm in the area you are running a generator.
  • Gasoline and its vapors are extremely flammable. Allow the generator engine to cool at least two minutes before refueling and always use fresh gasoline.  If you do not plan to use your generator in 30 days, don’t forget to stabilize the gas with fuel stabilizer.
  • Never operate the generator near combustible materials.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator.
  • If you have to use extension cords, be sure they are heavy duty and outdoor-rated for the application. Coiled cords can get extremely hot; always uncoil cords and lay them in flat, open locations.
  • Never try to power a house’s wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet – a practice known as “backfeeding.” This dangerous practice presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer.
  • If you must connect a generator into your home electrical system, have a qualified electrician install a Power Transfer Switch.
  • Generators produce powerful voltage so never operate them under wet conditions. Take precautions to protect your generator from exposure to rain and snow.