One of the most dangerous times for operating a generator occurs immediately after power from the grid goes down. It is during these moments that a variety of hazardous issues can arise, including:
* Getting a portable generator in place – There are a variety of ways that things can go wrong from the point of pulling the generator out of storage to rolling it into place to start delivering backup power. One common issue after an extended period in storage is that boxes and other items may be stacked on top of the generator. If this is the case, make sure you have a flashlight so that you can see what you’re off-loading and where it should go.
* Putting the generator indoors or near vents and windows – All generators emit carbon monoxide gas, which can aggregate to dangerous levels in the house. Prior to its first use, locate a well-ventilated place that is at least ten feet away from windows and vents to situate the generator.
* Allowing a generator to be exposed to water – Avoid the risk of electrocution by a wet generator by building a well-ventilated shelter with an elevated step to keep the generator dry. If this isn’t an option, never run the generator while it is directly exposed to water.
* Refueling – A generator will often be put away after use without consideration for the next time, resulting in a partially filled tank that runs empty after a short period. In this situation, allow the generator to cool off completely before refueling to avoid accidental ignition caused by spilling gas on hot engine parts.
* Connecting the generator directly to the home’s circuitry – Plugging the generator into a wall outlet, as opposed to connecting to individual appliances, electronics, etc. directly, using extension cords can result in “backfeeding”. This occurs when electricity flows from the generator back toward the grid, a highly dangerous circumstance that can result in the electrocution of utility workers and/or residents in homes that share the same electrical feed.
Acting with haste to get backup power online when electricity from the main goes down can result in a variety of potential hazards. One of the best ways to avoid these dangers is to do some advanced planning to get your portable generator in a location that is ventilated and protected and then following up with best practices in terms of connecting and operating the generator until power returns.