Be Safe When Using Portable Generators, Officials Say
Agencies from around the Tampa Bay area are warning residents of the dangers of using portable generators. They are also offering safety tips.
TAMPA BAY – Officials from agencies across Tampa Bay are urging residents who are using portable generators to take safety measures so no one is hurt.
Tampa Fire Rescue offered this list of safety tips:
**Place generators at least 15 feet from the house and away from doors and windows. Generators that are placed against an exterior wall can vent carbon monoxide into the eaves of the home and into the attic. Although carbon monoxide is lighter than air, once it has intruded into a home it can circulate and become a danger to occupants.
**Never run a generator in an enclosed space or indoors. Most generator-related injuries and deaths involve carbon monoxide, or CO, poisoning from generators used indoors or in partially enclosed spaces. That includes the basement or garage, spaces that can capture deadly levels of carbon monoxide.
**If you’re using a generator to keep the lights on during a cleanup effort, “use a working, battery-operated carbon monoxide detector at the same time,” says Ken Boyce, principal designated engineer manager at Underwriters Laboratories. A carbon monoxide alarm provides one more layer of defense against making an innocent but potentially deadly mistake.
**Don’t run a portable generator in the rain. The exception is if you cover and vent it. You can buy model-specific tents online and generic covers at home centers and hardware stores.
**Before refueling, turn off a gasoline-powered generator and let it cool. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts can ignite. Allowing the engine to cool also reduces the risks of burns while refueling.
**Stock up on extra gasoline and store it properly. When you think you’ll need to use the generator for an extended time, you’ll want extra fuel on hand. Just be sure to store gas only in an ANSI-approved container in a cool, well-ventilated place.Adding stabilizer to the gas in the can will help it last longer, but don’t store gasoline near any potential sources of heat or fire, or inside the house.
**Avoid electrical hazards. If you don’t yet have a transfer switch, you can use the outlets on the generator if you follow certain precautions. It’s best to plug in appliances directly to the generator. If you must use an extension cord, it should be a heavy-duty one for outdoor use, rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. First check that
the entire cord is free of cuts and that the plug has all three prongs, critical to protect against a shock if water has collected inside the equipment.
**Install a transfer switch before the next storm. This critical connection will cost from $500 to $900 with labor for a 5,000-rated-watt or larger generator. A transfer switch connects the generator to your circuit panel and lets you power hardwired appliances while avoiding the glaring safety risk of using extension cords. Most transfer switches also help you avoid overload by
displaying wattage usage levels.
**Don’t attempt to backfeed your house. Backfeeding means trying to power your home’s wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. This reckless and dangerous practice 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, so you could end up frying some of your electronics or starting an electrical fire.
The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas offered these tips to avoid and identify the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning when using portable generators, gas-powered appliances, and gas or charcoal grills:
**CO is a poisonous gas produced by burning fuels such as gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene, charcoal and wood. CO can accumulate in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces, such as your home, garage or lanai. The risk of illness or death increases with the level of CO in the air and the amount of time exposed.
**Symptoms to look out for include fatigue, weakness, chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath upon exertion, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, loss of consciousness, and in severe cases, death.
**Do not burn charcoal or gas grills inside a house, garage, vehicle, tent or fireplace.
**Never use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, and other enclosed or partially enclosed areas including your lanai/porch. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home.
*Keep units outdoors on a dry surface, away from doors, windows, vents, and air conditioning equipment that could allow CO to come indoors. Follow the instructions that come with your generator.
*Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. The CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms.
*Test your CO alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.
*You cannot see or smell CO and portable generators can produce high levels of CO very quickly.
*If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY.
*If you have a poisoning emergency, call your nearest Florida Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911 immediately.
*To report CO poisoning to DOH-Pinellas, call (727) 824-6932.
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