E-395 04/06 Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they can also be deadly. The primary hazards to avoid when us- ing a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poison- ing from generator exhaust fumes, electrocution and fre. Carbon monoxide danger Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas byproduct of incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural gas, heating oil and diesel.
This toxic gas interferes with the blood 9s ability to carry oxygen to internal organs. People exposed to carbon monoxide will experience a range of symptoms. Low-level ex- posure can result in headaches, lethargy, weakness, nausea and muscle aches.
High-level exposure can cause paralysis, impaired judgment and even death. Preventing CO poisoning " Never operate a generator indoors. This in- cludes homes, garages, basements, attics or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas even when you think there is suf fcient ventilation.
Opening windows and doors will not prevent CO buildup. " Locate the generator outdoors away from win- dows, doors and vents where CO gas can enter the home. " Install CO alarms with battery backup in your home according to the manufacturer 9s recom- mendations.
CO alarms should be certi fed to meet requirements of the ... more. less.
latest safety standards (UL 2034, IAS 6-96 or CSA 6.19.01). Test alarms frequently and replace dead batteries. David W.<br><br> Smith, Extension Safety Program The Texas A&M University System Electrocution dangers Portable generators convert liquid fuel to electri- cal power to operate electrical appliances, tools and other devices. Homeowners should protect them- selves and family members from electrical shock and electrocution by using portable generators correctly. Preventing electrocution " Keep the generator dry and do not expose it to rain or place it on wet surfaces.<br><br> Operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. Remember to dry your hands before touching the generator. " Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy duty extension cord that is rated for outdoor use.<br><br> Make sure the extension cord is also rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected load. Check that the cord has no cuts or tears and that the plug is a three-prong plug equipped with a grounding pin. " Never plug the generator into a wall outlet in a house or other circuit.<br><br> This practice, known as cback feeding, d is extremely dangerous because it energizes the failed electrical wiring supply- ing the home. This could electrocute unsus- pecting utility workers and/or neighbors who might be servicing the electrical system. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.<br><br> " If you must connect the generator to the main house wiring, contact a licensed electrician to do the installation. The professional will install Safe Operation of Backup Power Generators the proper disconnect or transfer switch to pre- vent the current from cback feed d situations. " Permanently installed, stationary generators are better suited to provide backup power to a home during power outages.<br><br> Even a properly connected portable generator can become over- loaded. This can cause overheating or stressing of the generator components and possibly lead to a generator failure. Fire dangers Fires can occur when refueling portable generators or when fuel is stored in inappropriate areas.<br><br> Preventing $res " Never store generator fuel in your home. Gaso- line, propane, kerosene and other ammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers. " Do not store fuel near a fuel burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage.<br><br> If the fuel spills or the container is improperly sealed, invisible fuel vapors from the container can move along the ground and be ignited by the water heater 9s pilot ame. " Turn the generator off and let it cool before refu- eling. A gasoline spill on hot engine parts could ignite.<br><br> " Always store a fre extinguisher in the immedi - ate vicinity of the generator. Other safety precautions " Always check the generator thoroughly each new season before you turn it on. " Never attempt to repair a generator.<br><br> Only quali- fed servicemen should perform repairs. " Don 9t remove or tamper with safety devices. They are for your protection.<br><br> " Don 9t touch hot engine parts. " Keep children away from the generator and fuel storage containers. Produced by Agricultural Communications, The Texas A&M University System Extension publications can be found on the Web at: http://tcebookstore.org Visit Texas Cooperative Extension at http://texasextension.tamu.edu Educational programs conducted by Texas Cooperative Extension serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, handicap or national origin.<br><br> Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics, Acts of Congress of May 8, 1914, as amen ded, and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. Edward G. Smith, Director, Texas Cooperative Ex tension, The Texas A&M University System.<br><br> New Post-Hurricane CO Poisoning Incidents Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29, 2005 on the Gulf Coast of the United States. Because of widespread power outage and property damage, portable backup generators were used to operate electrical appliances and aid cleanup efforts. From August 29 to September 24, 51 carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning cases were reported in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.<br><br> All but one case is thought to originate from improper use of portable generators. Of these cases, 46 were non- fatal, and \xdve were fatal. Source: Centers for Disease Control.<br><br> Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. October 7, 2005. Facts about Portable Generator Deaths " 40 percent of deaths occur in winter months.<br><br> " 70 percent of deaths occur in the home. " 26 percent of portable generator incidents involve multiple deaths. " 80 percent of CO poisoning deaths associated with portable generators occur in adults 25 years and older.<br><br> " 72 percent of victims are male. Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission. Release #04-141.<br><br> May 20, 2004. Facts based upon 223 generator-related deaths from CO poisoning from 1990 through 2003. <br><br>