Generator Safety Tips

Whether it’s a hurricane or a routine power outage, navigating a dark house is never fun. That’s why many people choose to install backup generators in their homes. A backup generator can power your home until regular electricity resumes.  This also proves useful for powering sump pumps during heavy rains which can result in major flooding and water damage.

While backup generators can come in handy in a pinch, owners should know the right way to install and maintain them. Knowing what to do can help reduce risks like fire, electrical damage, injuries and more. Here are nine things to do now if you have (or will soon have) a backup generator.

  1. Review your local laws. Depending on your state, you may be responsible for making sure your generator’s current doesn’t feed back into power lines. (Learn why this matters below in number eight.) You might also be required to give local utility companies a head’s up about your generator.
  2. Keep the surrounding area clear. Backup generators give off a lot of heat. Help prevent a fire by keeping any items far away from it
  3. Check the ventilation. This one is best left to the pros during the installation. If your generator doesn’t have enough room to properly ventilate, dangerous carbon monoxide can build up.
  4. Invest in a carbon monoxide detector. Speaking of carbon monoxide, you’ll definitely want to invest in a carbon monoxide detector if you have a backup generator. It will warn you if levels are rising so—a good thing, since carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal.
  5. Keep it dry. Wet conditions can lead to short circuits—and that could lead to a generator fire. For this reason, keep your generator in a dry place. An open-canopy structure can help protect it if you’re worried about water.
  6. Stash a fire extinguisher close by. Consider it an added precaution in case a fire was to break out. (Check out this handy fire extinguisher guide before you buy.)
  7. Corral the cords. Cords should be out of any foot paths, yet still easy to access. You’ll want to check them regularly to see if they’re frayed or cut—both types of damage could cause a fire.
  8. Say no to wall outlets. Plugging your generator into a wall outlet is known as “back feeding,” and it’s a bad idea. That’s because the low voltage from the generator can increase to thousands of volts when it passes through a utility transformer. And that could put you and utility workers at serious risk. Instead, plug your generator into a manual transfer switch that distributes power in a safer manner.
  9. Hand off. Backup generators heat up fast. Protect yourself from potential skin burns by putting on protective gear before touching your backup generator.

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What To Do Before, During & After a Flood

Sometimes there is no warning of flash floods, and that is why it is important to think of them and prepare for them before they happen. Here are a few things you can do.

Before the floods…

  • Know about your local relief centers and evacuation routes.
  • Keep emergency numbers and important information handy, as well as emergency supplies, kits, first aid items. These may include water, canned food, can opener, battery-operated radio, flashlight and protective clothing.
  • Fold and roll up anything onto higher ground (or upper floors of your home), including chemicals and medicines.
  • Make sure everything that is of importance is secured (jewelry, documents, pets, and other valuables).
  • Plant trees and shrubs and keep a lot of vegetation in your compound if you are in a low-lying area as that can control erosion and help soften the speed of the flowing water.

During the floods…

  • Flash floods occur in a short spate of time. As soon as they start, be quick, keep safe and ensure that children and elderly are safe by leaving the house to a higher ground.
  • Turn off all electrical appliance, gas, heating and the like if there is a bit of time.
  • Leave the area before it gets too late. Do not drive through the water as moving water can sweep you away.
  • Stay away from power lines or broken power transmission cables.
  • Try to keep away from flood water as it may contain chemicals or other hazardous materials.

After the floods…

  • Make sure you have permission from emergency officers to get back inside your house.
  • Keep all power and electrical appliance off until the house is cleaned up properly and an electrical personnel has confirmed that it is OK to put them on.
  • Make sure you have photographs, or a record of all the damage, as it may be needed for insurance claims.
  • Clean the entire home, together with all the objects in it very well before you use them again. They may be contaminated.
  • Wear appropriate gear (mask and gloves) before cleaning begins.