Portable generators are useful during power outages. However, many homeowners are unaware that the improper use of portable generators can be risky. The most common dangers associated with portable generators are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrical shock or electrocution, and fire hazards.
NFPA safety tips
Downed utility lines, power company blackouts, heavy snow falls or summer storms can all lead to power outages. Many people turn to a portable generator for a temporary solution without knowing the risks.
- Generators should be operated in well ventilated locations outdoors away from all doors, windows and vent openings.
- Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.
- Place generators so that exhaust fumes can’t enter the home through windows, doors or other openings in the building.
- Make sure to install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for correct placement and mounting height.
- Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it is running.
- Store fuel for the generator in a container that is intended for the purpose and is correctly labeled as such. Store the containers outside of living areas.
Facts and figures
According to a 2013 Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report, portable generators were involved in the majority of carbon monoxide deaths involving engine-driven tools from 1999-2012. The report founds that portable generators were linked to more than 85 percent of non-fire CO deaths associated with engine-driven tools, or 800 out of 931 deaths, during that 14-year period. The CPSC report also found that African Americans died at nearly twice their proportion of the population. CPSC staff found that 23 percent of generator-related fatalities involved African Americans. African Americans make up about 12 percent of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.