Home Generator Safety

17 May 2017
  BW Fire Security Systems

Many People Do Not Realize the Potential Hazard a Home Generator Can Pose if Not Used Properly

According to Consumer Reports, “A good generator can get you through a power outage but it also poses safety hazards of its own.” Its true, many people do not realize the potentially deadly hazard a home generator can pose if not used properly. Portable generators are internal combustion engines used to generate electricity. They are useful when temporary or remote power is needed, but taking some important precautions is essential when using a generator.

What Are the Hazards of Home Generator Use?

CO2 Poisoning:

Small gasoline-powered engines and tools present a serious health hazard. They produce high concentrations of CO--a poisonous gas in their exhaust that can cause illness, permanent neurological damage, and death. Because it is colorless, odorless, and nonirritating, CO can overcome exposed persons without warning. 

Electric Shock: 

Improper use of electrical connections leading to electric shock or electrocution or accidentally energizing other electrical systems.


Fire caused by ignition of gasoline spilled on hot engine parts and improper storage location.

Correct Use of a Generator:

Position Generators Outdoors and Well Away From Any Structure

Running a generator inside any enclosed or partially enclosed structure will lead to dangerous and often fatal levels of CO. Keep generators positioned outside at least 15 feet away from open windows so exhaust does not enter your home/business or a neighboring home/business. 

Don’t mistakenly think that using fans, open windows or doors will provide enough fresh air. The build up of fumes is fatal! If you or others in the home show symptoms of CO2 poisoning (dizziness, headache, nausea, or fatigue) get to fresh air and get medical attention right away.

Consider installing battery-operated CO alarms. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and take proper precautions. Use a portable generator only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment.

Keep the Generator Dry

Operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure, and make sure your hands are dry before touching the generator. Do not use the generator in rainy or wet conditions, including snow. Generators produce very powerful electrical voltage, and can pose some additional safety concerns if users bypass safety devices such as circuit breakers. 

Do Not Overload a Generator: 

This causes overheating and may lead to a fire. Do not use the generator near combustible materials. Generators have two ratings, pay attenion to the running watts rating and don't go over that number.

Disconnect the Power Coming Into Your Home

Before you operate your generator, disconnect your normal source of power. Otherwise, power from your generator could be sent back onto the utility company lines, creating a hazardous situation for utility workers.

Make Sure Your Generator Is Properly Grounded

Proper grounding and bonding are a means to prevent shocks and electrocutions. Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Plug Equipment Directly Into the Generator or Use the Correct Extension Cord

If you can, plug directly into the generator or use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords, in good working condition, with a wire gauge that can handle the electric load of any appliances connected to them. Heavy-duty extension cords should contain a grounding conductor (3-wire flexible cord and 3-pronged cord connectors.) Because coiled cords can get very hot, lay them flat when using.

NEVER Try to Power the House/Business Wiring by Plugging the Generator Into a Wall Outlet, or Into the Main Electrical Panel

Never attach a portable generator directly to the electrical system of a structure (home, office or trailer) unless the generator has a properly installed open-transition transfer switch. Make sure the electrician has installed an approved automatic transfer switch to disconnect your home’s wiring from the utility system before you start using the generator. 

If the portable generator is providing electric power to a structure by connection via a transfer switch to a structure (home, office, shop, trailer, or similar) it must be connected to a grounding electrode system, such as a driven ground rod. The transfer switch must be approved for the use and installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions by a qualified electrician.

Maintain an Adequate Supply of Fuel

Always use fresh gasoline. Know your generator’s rate of fuel consumption at various power output levels. Use the type of fuel recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions.

Take care in considering how much fuel you can safely store, and for how long. Gasoline and diesel fuel stored for long periods may need added chemicals to stabalize and keep them safe for use.  Store all fuels in specifically designed containers in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, away from all potential heat sources. 

Turn the Generator Off and Let It Cool Before Refueling

The gas tank is on an engine, let it cool first! Even the vapors from gasoline are so flammable that you could start a fire!

Inspect and Maintain Your Generator Regularly

Always read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions and suggested maintenance as well. Old fuel is the number one problem of generator starting problems. Keep fresh fuel in the tank, and run the generator for a while periodically to help ensure it will be ready when you need it. If the generator will not be used for 30 days, stabilize the gas with fuel stabilizer which helps keep the fuel fresh and prevent corrosion. Some generators have a drain making it possible to drain the tank. Let it cool first, drain the tank, and then run the generator until it is out of gas. 

It the wake of an outage, take the time to properly set up your generator, thinking through each step to avoid any unecessary hazards on top of a power outage! Safety first!

Brought to you by BW Fire Security Systems:

Established in 1989, BW Fire Security Systems maintains two locations (Show Low, AZ. and Prescott Valley, AZ.), 15 service vehicles, and 22 employees in order to provide an impressive suite of fire and security systems to both residential and commercial customers throughout Arizona.

At BW Security Systems, there is no crazy phone system. You call, we answer. We care about our neighbors, our customers, and our fellow business owners. Contact BW Fire Security Systems! (800) 228-1005