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Generator Safety

Portable generators can be very helpful during outages. However, we urge you to follow these safety guidelines when using one:

  • Never connect a generator directly to your home's wiring unless your home has been wired for generator use. This can cause backfeeding along power lines and electrocute anyone coming in contact with them, including lineworkers making repairs. Have a licensed electrician install the equipment necessary to safely connect emergency generators to your home.
  • Always plug appliances directly into generators. Connecting the generator to your home's circuits or wiring must be done by a qualified, licensed electrician who will install a transfer switch to prevent backfeeding.
  • Use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords. Make sure extension cords are free of cuts or tears and the plug has three prongs. Overloaded cords can cause fires or equipment damage.
  • Ensure your generator is properly grounded.
  • Never overload a generator. A portable generator should only be used when necessary to power essential equipment or appliances.
  • Turn off all equipment powered by the generator before shutting it down.
  • Keep the generator dry.  Operate it on a dry surface under an open structure.
  • Always have a fully charged fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Never fuel a generator while it is operating.
  • Read and adhere to the manufacturer's instructions for safe operation. Never cut corners when it comes to safety.
  • If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical eqiupment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
  • When using gasoline and diesel-powered portable generators to supply power to a building, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the "off" position prior to starting the generator. This will prevent power lines from being inadvertenly energized by backfeed electrical energy from the generators and help protect utility line workers, repair workers, or people in neighboring buildings from possible electrocution. If the generator is plugged into a household circuit without turning the main breaker to the "off" position or removing the main fuse, the electrical current could reverse, go back through the circuit to the outside power grid, and energize power lines or electrical systems in other buildings without the knowledge of the utility workers. Electrocutions are the fifth leading cause of all reported occupational deaths.
  • Use only in a well ventilated area. Generator use is also a major cause of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

If it is necessary to use a portable generator, manufacturer recommendations and specifications must be strictly followed. If there are any questions regarding the operation or installation of the portable generator, a qualified electrician should be immediately contacted to assist in installation and start-up activities. The generator should always be positioned outside the structure.

For more information:

Download a brochure on portable generator safety

Visit SafeElectricity.org

 

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