Lost power? Read this before using your generator


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As Hurricane Irene crawled up the East Coast, many were left wondering whether they’d lose power — and the hasty run on generators began.

While these devices can provide some much-needed relief from the loss of electricity, they also can pose some serious dangers. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, fire and burns are the major dangers you need to be cautious of when using a generator. (Important note: CO has no odor and can’t be seen.)

Before you start using your new generator, be sure to follow these safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

• Follow instructions that come with the generator;

• Immediately find fresh air if you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak. CO from generators can be deadly;

• Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawl spaces, sheds or similar areas, even if doors and windows are open. CO can build up and even linger for hours after you’ve shut off the generator;

• Find a place for the generator outdoors and far from doors, windows and vents;

• Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery backup in your home. Test batteries monthly;

• Protect the generator from moisture, which can pose a shock and electrocution risk. Operate the generator under an open, canopy-like structure on a dry surface where water cannot reach. Make sure your hands are dry before touching the generator;

• Connect appliances to the generator with heavy-duty extension cords designed for outdoor use. The wattage for the cord should exceed the total wattage of all appliances you plan to connect to it. Make sure the entirety of each cord has no cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs;

• Don’t power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, which can post a serious risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer;

• Don’t store fuel for the generator in your home. Gasoline, propane, kerosene and other flammable liquids should be kept outside of living areas in properly labeled, nonglass safety containers. Do not store them near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater; and

• Turn off the generator and let it cool down before refueling. If gasoline spills on hot engine parts, it could ignite.

Click here for HellaWella’s hurricane season checklist.