Living on an island that is prone to storms and hurricanes
can mean there is a need to acquire a portable generator. With more people
owning and operating them, it’s vital to know how to use them safely.
One of the main concerns with portable generators is that
they produce a gas known as carbon monoxide which is dangerous.
As an odourless and colourless gas, it is emitted in the
exhaust of the generator. Breathing in carbon monoxide can be lethal, with
several people dying each year from using generators.
It’s not just in confined spaces either. In the year 2000, there was a case when two children who were swimming next to a swim deck that had a generator on it, died due to the fumes of the generator.
There have been many other incidents since with the fumes of a generator killing people within minutes. Even if you cannot see it or smell it, carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous so should be used far away from any windows, doors and vents and only outside.
Even the smallest generator can produce the same level of
carbon monoxide as could six idling cars produce. It’s a gas that is heavy and
it can linger in the air, which can make it difficult for it to be expunged.
Under no circumstances should a generator be used indoors.
Portable Generators must be Dry and Free from Debris
Using a portable generator safely requires planning. Since
they are most often used in inclement weather, or even during the night, it’s
critical to understand how and where to use them. It’s best to operate them
only in open areas and away from any falling debris such as twigs, leaves or rain.
It’s essential that a portable generator is not wet during
use. It’s also just as important for the operator to not be standing in water
or on damp ground when starting the generator. It’s critical that portable
generators are started using the recommendations of the manufacturer.
Ideally, a portable generator would be used atop a concrete pad, which is at least 15 feet away from buildings and residences.
Portable Generators must be Properly Connected
When it comes to plugging in, the portable generator should not be plugged directly in the electrical system of the residence. Either there should be a generator ready extension cord or it would be plugged into the generator outlet.
Another point to consider is that the portable generator should never be overloaded. In addition to it’s running watts, there is a maximum or surge-watts rating. During normal use, a generator should not consume more than 80% of the maximum running watts of the generator.
Applying this equation means that there is less likely to be
any damage or overheating. Check what your generator is designed for by viewing
the data plate that you’ll find at the back or underside.
Other Safety Tips for Portable Generators
Considering they use 12 to 18 gallons of gasoline for each day of operation, it’s important to have a substantial fuel reserve for an extended blackout. Gasoline and diesel are highly combustible. It’s critical that any substantial amounts are stored safely otherwise it will be hazardous.
When the generator is in operation, it’s important not to
have any open flames near it. This means that there shouldn’t even be lighted
cigarettes close to it or it’s fuel supply. In particular, consider that you
should not use a candle to provide illumination to either prepare or start a
To refuel the portable generator, do not do it while it is running. The engine should be allowed to cool first to avoid inadvertent fire.
Finally, remember not to allow children too close to the generator as they can be very dangerous for all the reasons listed above.