Tropical Storm Isaias caused more than $4 billion in damage in the United States, which makes the storm the most expensive cyclone to impact the northeastern part of the country since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In addition to the substantial property damage, the storm killed at least five people in the United States. Two people were killed when the storm struck a North Carolina mobile home park and at least three more individuals were killed in Delaware, Maryland, and New York. To make matters worse, more than a week after the storm, more than 120,000 individuals in Connecticut and New York are still without power. Many people in the country are also left struggling with the challenges presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Recommendation by Nassau County Leaders
Following Hurricane Isaias, and anticipating a more active than usual hurricane season, the Nassau County Fire Marshal’s Office recently held a demonstration of how to safely install and use a gas-powered generator. This session comes at a good time; more and more people are buying generators to better prepare for power outages caused by storms. However, recent incidents of individuals being injured by their generators have shown that these devices are dangerous if improperly used or inadequately installed.
For example, a family of six was recently forced to evacuate their Long Island home due to carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator running in the family’s basement. In a similar incident, a homeowner in South Farmingdale filed a hot generator with gasoline from a gas can, causing vapor to ignite from the generator’s exhaust and causing substantial damage to his home.
Advice for Safe Generator Use and Installation
Some of the safety guidelines that people are recommended to follow when installing or using portable generators include:
- Do not place the generator indoors. Under no circumstances should generators either be used in enclosed spaces or indoors. While this includes inside houses, generators should not be placed in crawl spacements, basements, or garages. While some people think that it is okay to place a generator in these areas if they open windows, this is still dangerous.
- Make sure the generator has adequate clearance. When deciding where to store your generator, it is helpful to remember that generators should have at least three feet of clearance on all sides as well as above to make sure that adequate ventilation exists. Additionally, when operating the generator, you should be watchful that exhaust from the generator does not re-enter your home or other contained area that provides fresh air.
- Be cautious of carbon monoxide and its associated dangers. Generators emit carbon monoxide, which is a colorless and odorless gas. When inhaled by humans in large amounts, carbon monoxide is deadly. Unfortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning is a common result from inadequate ventilation for generators. It is not enough to be aware of the dangers presented by carbon monoxide poisoning, however, it is also important for people to recognize the signs of poisoning. Some of the most common symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, nausea, and exhaustion. If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms, medical care should promptly be sought and the person experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning should immediately get fresh air.
- Be cautious when fueling the generator. It is critical to only place fuel into a generator when the generator is off and cool. This is because attempting to fuel a hot generator can create vapors, which can initiate and do substantial damage to the surrounding property. Before refueling, you should do more than shut down the generator. Instead, you should make sure that the generator has a sufficient amount of time to cool down.
- Avoid backfeeding. “Backfeeding” occurs when power is run back into a house through a “dual male-ended” extension cord. Backfeeding is dangerous and can lead to serious injuries or fatalities. If you re interested in removing the extension cords often associated with generators, it is a good idea to have an electrician install a transfer switch.
- Adequately store and transport fuel. Fuel for the generator must be properly stored. Fuel should also only be transported in approved containers that are sufficiently marked to reflect their contents. If you are in the process of filling gas cans, you should make sure to do so on the ground and never inside of a vehicle including truck beds. Also, the vehicle should be turned off before you begin to place fuel in the container.
- Always keep the generator on a level surface. Many smaller generators rely on splash lubrication systems that utilize crankshafts that scoop oil and splash it onto the generator’s moving parts. This system only works safely and most effectively when the generator is placed on level ground. If you position the generator on a slope, the dippers will be unable to reach the oil and some engine parts of the generator will run dry, which can have undesirable consequences. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings entirely to make sure you place the generator on a level surface as well as follow any other recommended steps. If you do not have a level spot, you should make one or move the generator to another location.
- Remain vigilant when using the generator to power your home. If you rely on the generator to power your home, make sure that the generator and other equipment is installed by a professionally licensed electrician. During the installation process, your electrical service should be turned off. Avoid creating a condition where you feed power back into the grid, which can potentially end up harming workers or anyone in the vicinity.
- Make sure generators are properly grounded. While generators should not be used indoors, you should also make sure to keep them out of the rain and avoid creating static electricity, particularly when fueling the tank. Generators should be grounded, which means they should be connected to a grounding rod that is then connected to the generator frame through the use of either a grounding cable or copper wire.
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