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How To Use Generators Safely During Storm Recovery

U. S. Fire Administration offers tips.

With the storm recovery continuing in Fairfax County, generators become the only source of power for many people.

Area public safety officials urge residents to practice safety precautions if using generators. The U. S. Fire Administration (USFA) provides the following tips to prevent the loss of life and property resulting from improper use of portable generators.

To avoid carbon monoxide hazards:

  • Always use generators outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents.
  • Never use generators in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Install battery-operated or plugin (with battery backup) carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home, following manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Test CO alarms often and replace batteries when needed.

To avoid electrical hazards:

  • Keep the generator dry. Operate on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure.
  • Dry your hands before touching the generator.
  • Plug appliances directly into generator or use a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord.
  • Make sure entire extension cord is free of cuts or tears and the plug has all 3 prongs, especially a grounding pin.
  • NEVER plug the generator into a wall outlet. This practice, known as backfeeding, can cause an electrocution risk to utility workers and others served by the same utility transformer.
  • If necessary to connect generator to house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install appropriate equipment. Or, your utility company may be able to install an appropriate transfer switch.

To avoid fire hazards:

  • Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
  • Always store fuel outside of living areas in properly labeled, nonglass containers.
  • Store fuel away from any fuelburning appliance.

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