20 Aug 2014
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Generator Safety Tips from the Briarcliff Manor FD

On Thursday, three residents had to be hospitalized after inhaling too much carbon monoxide.

Generator Safety Tips from the Briarcliff Manor FD

While some Briarcliff Manor residents are still in the dark, thousands were without power directly after Hurricane Sandy swept through the village almost two weeks ago.

Since then, some affected residents have dealt with the dropping temperatures and lack of electricity by finding alternate ways to heat their homes.

Last weekend, Briarcliff Manor Fire Department Chief Michael King helped put out a small fire caused by a fireplace in a South State Road home.

Luckily, no one was injured.

In addition, many residents have been using generators to provide temporary power to their homes.

"We have had a large number or CO calls and it is because of improper operation on these generators,"  said in an email to Patch.

In Pleasantville, the Fire Department also responded to a home where a generator appeared to be too close to the garage door, triggering a carbon monoxide detector.

According to King, "We had a call Thursday morning and had to take a family of three to Phelps with elevated levels of CO in their blood and it was a direct results of improper use of their generator. They ran the generator in their detached garage and it was partially attached to their house. The CO got into the house through the garage and they got sick."

It's important for families to be aware of where the exhaust from the generator is going, he noted.

"One call the generator was about 10 feet away, which is good, but the exhaust was hitting the parked cars and with no wind it was bouncing off the cars back into the house through a close garage door," King pointed out.

King and the BMFD offered the following generator safety tips:

Don’t overload your generator

  • Determine the amount of power you will need to operate those things you plan to connect to the generator.
    • Light bulb wattage indicates the power needed for lighting.
    • Appliance and equipment labels indicate their power requirements.
  • If you can’t determine the amount of power you will need, ask an electrician.
  • Make sure your generator produces more power than will be drawn by the things you connect to the generator, including the initial surge when it is turned on. If your generator does not produce enough power to operate everything at once, stagger the use of your equipment.
  • If your equipment draws more power than the generator can produce, you may blow a fuse on the generator or damage the connected equipment.

Use your generator safely

  • Incorrect generator use can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution and fire. Follow the directions supplied with the generator.

Never use a portable generator indoors

  • Never use a portable generator in a garage, carport, basement, crawl space or other enclosed or partially-enclosed area, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home.
  • If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air right away — do not delay!
  • Install home CO alarms that are battery-operated or have battery back-up. Test batteries frequently and replace when needed.

Using your generator outdoors

  • Place the generator away from windows, doors, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors.
  • Generators should be at least 15 feet away from buildings. Even 15 feet away, air flow patterns could still blow carbon monoxide into homes through attic vents, windows, or doors, so it's very important to have a working carbon monoxide detector inside the home.
  • To avoid electrocution, keep the generator dry. Do not use in rain or wet conditions. Operate it on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure. Make sure your hands are dry before touching the generator.

Use and store generator fuel safely

  • Turn the generator off and let it cool before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
  • Store generator fuel in an approved safety can outside of living areas in a locked shed or other protected area. Local laws may restrict use or storage of fuel. Ask your local fire department for information.
  • If you spill fuel or do not seal its container properly, invisible vapors can travel along the ground and be ignited by an appliance’s pilot light or arcs from electric switches in the appliance.
  • Use the type of fuel recommended in the generator instructions or on its label.

Connect your generator correctly

  • Plug appliances directly into the generator, or use a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.
  • Never try to power house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “back feeding.” It can lead to the electrocution of utility workers or neighbors served by the same utility transformer.
  • The only safe way to connect a generator to house wiring is to have a qualified electrician install a power transfer switch.

The safest way to get emergency power

  • Permanently installed stationary generators are the best way to provide home backup power during a power outage.

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