Safety Tips for Using a Portable Generator



If you really want to be prepared the next time the power goes out, a portable generator is the way to go! A portable generator can be a life saver when the power goes out… You’ll have the lights back on in no time at all! Portable generators can power most, if not all of your home’s power needs. If you plan on using a portable generator here are the dos and don’ts to operating your generator and keeping you and your family safe.

What to Do:

·         Buying a generator. When choosing the right generator, you need to first figure out what you will be powering in your home. Will it be your lights, appliances, or other household equipment? Once you know that then figure out how much power they require and total it up. You will need to purchase a generator that produces more power than what will be drawn from your home’s equipment.  If the equipment in your home draws more power than the generator can produce, you may blow a fuse on the generator or damage the connected equipment. If you can’t determine the amount of power that will be needed, ask an electrician to determine that for you.

·         Storing your generator. Always store your generator in a dry, clean area that is easy for you to get to. When the power goes out you don’t want to be tripping over things in the dark trying to get to your generator.

·         Use a ground wireUse heavy duty, properly grounded extension cords to plug appliances into the generator.  Without proper grounding you could be electrocuted.

·         Check all cords. Make sure to check all cords that are to be plugged into the generator for frays and exposed wires.

·         Maintain your generator.  Always use fresh gasoline when possible. If a generator is likely to sit for long periods of time before being run again, use a gasoline stabilizer. You should start your generator at least once a month and let it run for a few minutes. If it has a battery, trickle charge the battery from time to time to ensure it is ready to go.


What you shouldn’t do:

·         Do not run your generator indoors.  Never run portable generators inside your home or in your garage. Gasoline-powered generators produce carbon monoxide, and the fumes can be deadly. Keep your generator away from your home’s windows and doors as well.  To be on the safe side invest in a CO alarm with battery backup for your home; if gas from the generator has entered your home the alarm will sound to warn you.

·         Do not run your generator unprotected in rain or snow. In bad weather keep your generator in a shed, under an overhang, or a portable shelter if possible. It is very important to keep your generator dry when operating. Never touch a generator with wet hands, you could be electrocuted.


·         Do not connect your generator directly to your home’s main fuse box or circuit panel.  The only recommended method to connect a generator to house wiring is by having a QUALIFIED ELECTRICIAN install a power transfer switch. Never try and do this yourself.

·         Do not refuel your generator while it is running. Shut off your generator first and let it cool down, gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite and start a fire.

·         Do not overload your generator. Use your generator only when necessary. Turn it off when you are asleep or away from your home to avoid a possible fire hazard.

When using a portable generator always remember, safety first! If you have any doubts about how to properly use your portable generator, contact the manufacturer or a licensed electrician for assistance.


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How to Prepare for Power Outages


prepareWeather can be unpredictable, and we need to keep ourselves and loved ones as safe as possible during a bad storm. There are basic things you can do to prepare your home for loss of power in either the summer or the winter months.

Don’t get caught in the dark

o   Keep a few emergency automatic power failure night lights plugged in. Plug in emergency night lights in dark hallways, bedrooms, common areas, basements, and garages.  Emergency lights can last from 6-20 hours depending upon what you purchase. These can come in handy the first couple of hours during a power outage, especially when you are trying to make your way around a dark house.

o   Always keep a number of flash lights and an emergency lantern with fresh batteries in your home. Make sure to keep your flashlights, lantern and additional batteries in a location that you can get to easily with little or no light.

o   Have candles and plenty of matches as well.  Make sure you keep your candles away from anything flammable, such as drapes.

Food Safety – What to do when power remains out for over 4 hours

o   Invest in a cooler and ice packs. Keep the cooler in a convenient location inside your home and ice packs in the freezer.  When power is out do not open your refrigerator if you do not have to, unless the power outage lasts longer than 4 hours. After 4 hours get your cooler and ice packs and pack items from your refrigerator into your cooler. Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

o   If your freezer is half full, it will hold safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold safely for 48 hours – do not open freezer door if you can avoid it.

o   Get the right foods before you lose power. Keep at least a 3 day supply of nonperishable foods such as crackers, whole-grain cereals, and canned food. Don’t forget a manual can opener!

Things to do before a power outage:

o   Be prepared for injuries. You should have an emergency kit at your home that is fully stocked with bandages in various sizes, sterile dressings and gloves, hand sanitizer and antibiotic towelettes, a thermometer, pain medicines, tweezers, and scissors. Make sure you purchase or build your own first aid kit that is large enough for your family

o   Stock up on bottled water. Water purification systems may not be working when the power goes out.

o   Purchase a battery operated or hand cranked radio to stay tuned in to news and emergency information when power is out.

o   Fill up all your vehicles’ tanks in case gas stations lose their power as well. Remember if you are using a generator they require roughly 12-20 gallons of gas per day. Store all fuel away from the house.

o   Have car chargers for cell phones and keep a corded phone as well. Cordless phones require AC power. Keep in mind cell phones may be more reliable than landline phones when local service is disrupted.

o   Be prepared for special needs. Tell your utility and local fire department before a storm if someone in your home uses an oxygen concentrator, ventilator, or medical bed, as power may be restored to you sooner. Always keep a one month supply of medication on hand.

It is important to plan ahead and be prepared you never know when a bad storm will hit. Sudden power outages can be frustrating and troublesome, but being prepared can eliminate some of that stress. For prolonged power outages, it may be wiser to seek shelter with friends, family, or a hotel.  Stay safe!


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Snow Safety Tips

We’re less than one month into the official start of winter, but the northeast is already gearing up for our second big snowstorm of the season. Big snow storms can be exciting for some (namely, children with a day off from school), but a headache for others that need to deal with digging themselves out. Here are some snow safety tips to make sure you and your snow-day fans are prepared for this next storm:

Pre-Storm Prep

For a list of preparations to take before a winter storm and/or extreme cold, see the FEMA website.

Prevent Broken Gas Pipes and Fires

Before a snow storm occurs:

  • In areas where heavy snows are expected, cover the regulator, relief valves, and fill valves with a protective cap or “dome.” This dome will keep out snow, ice, or rain which might clog the regulator if it freezes. In systems using more than one regulator, or where the cover is not in place, make certain the exposed regulator vent is in the downward position to keep out moisture.
  • Prior to heavy snow storms, mark the location of the propane tank and other equipment with snow stakes which should extend well above the maximum anticipated snow depth. Consumers whose tanks and piping are not presently marked should mark them now.

During and after the storm:

  • Use a broom instead of a shovel when clearing snow off the tank or around the exposed piping, regulator, gauges, or tubing.
  • When clearing the roof, avoid shoveling snow onto exposed piping around the propane regulator near the building or onto the propane tank and piping, as well as any meters or other piping that may be in use.
  • Check regulator vents on the propane system to be sure they are free of snow, ice or water that could freeze. (A two-stage system has a regulator on the tank and at the entrance of the propane piping to the building; a single regulator is on the tank.) If a regulator vent is clogged with ice or snow, contact your propane supplier immediately.
  • Check all gas appliance exhaust and combustion air vents, such as dryer or furnace vents, to be sure they are kept clear of snow and ice.

– Safety Tips from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission

When Operating a Snow Thrower

  • Stop the engine and use a long stick to unclog wet snow and debris from the machine. Do not use your hands to unclog a snow thrower.
  • Always keep hands and feet away from all moving parts.
  • Never leave the machine running in an enclosed area.
  • Add fuel to the tank outdoors before starting the machine; don’t add gasoline to a running or hot engine. Always keep the gasoline can capped, and store gasoline out of the house and away from ignition sources.
  • If you have an electric-powered snow thrower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times.

– Safety Tips from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission

When Shoveling

  • If you have previously suffered a heart attack, have a history of heart disease or lower back problems, have suffered from a shoulder or nee injury, smoke, have high blood pressure/cholesterol levels or lead a generally sedentary lifestyle, please shovel snow with extreme caution. Talk to your doctor before you begin to shovel.
  • Avoid caffeine or nicotine before beginning to reduce extra stress on the heart.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Stretch and warm your muscles to help prevent injury.
  • Dress in several layers and remove some if necessary as you shovel.
  • Pick a shovel that’s right for you. A smaller blade picks up less snow, but puts less strain on your back.
  • Shovel slowly and take breaks as needed.
  • Lift the snow correctly: stand with your feet a hip’s width apart and keep the shovel close to your body. Bend from the knees and tighten your muscles as you life. Do not twist; turn toward the direction you will be moving the snow. Maintain a neutral spine and avoid holding your breath.
  • If there is significant accumulation, lift and move snow in layers instead of trying to lift an entire section at once.
  • Listen to your body. Stop if you feel any pain.

For Even More Tips

If you’re looking to even better prepare yourself for this oncoming storm, here are some great blizzard safety resources:

What have you been doing to prepare for tonight’s storm? Sound off in the comments!

Blizzard Image Source: Jason Persse on Flickr


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