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February 25, 2020

Home Generator Safety Series – Part 2

How to avoid Electrical Shocks and Burns

If you live in Central Virginia, you’ve experienced every possible type of weather in the past few days. Sixty degrees warmth on Sunday, preceded by snow the Thursday before, and today more rain with temperatures in the 50s.

With all of these changes in the weather often come strong storm fronts with winds that can quickly knock out power to your home. In the second installment of this 3-part series, we’ll be giving you ways to avoid becoming a victim of electrical shock, burn, or worse.

Generator in Dark Yard with Cords Plugged In

Before we dive into part 2, there are some basic generator use rules worth following and repeating, so these will be at the start of each post in the series:

  • Thoroughly read the manufacturer’s operating and safety manual before setting up or using your generator
  • Never leave your generator running unattended. This doesn’t mean you have to stand outside and watch it, but it does mean no quick trips to the store while the generator is running.
  • Check the generator every 1-2 hours to ensure it is working correctly.
  • Be careful when touching your generator as it runs hot and stays hot long after turning off.

Don’t become a Shock Absorber

A generator that produces electricity will, logically, shock you if you aren’t careful. Add to the formula that you are likely using a generator in wet conditions (rain, sleet or snow), and this is a recipe for burns and electrocution.

Here are some general guidelines to follow to limit the risk of harm to you, your loved ones, and your home:

Outside

• It is common sense, but do not run a generator indoors. Ever. Even with all of the windows and doors wide open. Why take the chance of asphyxiation?

• Situate the generator 20 feet from the house with the exhaust directed away from windows and doors.

•  If you are connecting a generator to your electrical system, unless you are a licensed electrician, contact one or the manufacturer for proper installation instructions.

•  Keep the generator as dry as possible. Operate it under a canopy-type structure such as a carport, screened porch, or even a tarp on poles/tent.

• Make sure the generator is on a dry, flat surface.

• Keep your hands, clothes, and shoes dry when working on the generator.

• If your generator is exposed to the elements, avoid standing in water if you plan to touch it, and be sure you wear rubber-soled boots or shoes as an added safety measure. No bare feet, sandals, or flip-flops!

Inside

• Plug your appliances, devices, and lights directly into the generator using cords specified by the manufacturer. They should at least be outdoor-use cords.

• Check the cord before plugging it in to make sure there are no cuts or exposed wires.

• All cords must have a three-prong plug to protect against shocks, particularly if any water has collected inside the generator.

• Extension cords can be overloaded and present a fire hazard. A simple extension cord may work fine for a 60-watt lamp, but it won’t work well for your refrigerator.

• Consider installing a transfer switch that connects the generator to your circuit panel letting you have power to your hardwired appliances (like alarm systems, doorbells, etc.) while avoiding the added risk of tripping over extension cords.

• Never plug your generator into a wall outlet. This “backfeeding” attempt can cause harm to electrical workers and neighbors on the same utility transformer. It also bypasses the circuit protection built into your house, can short out your devices, and present a fire hazard.

Next up – Carefully Feeding Your Generator

READ MORE:

Generator Safety – Part 1
Storm Preparedness Checklist
Easy Steps to Minimize Power Outage Damage to Your Home