Proper Use of Generators

Portable generators are highly prized items. Used improperly, backup generators can cause serious injury or death.

"The whole safety aspect has not been given enough attention," said NRECA Chief Engineer Ron Greenhalgh. "The only reason that you would buy one is if you couldn't tolerate long-term outages for any reason or live in a remote location. If you don't know what you're doing, they can be downright dangerous."

Problems with electric generators come when they are not properly connected, and power-surging can back feed into distribution lines assumed by line workers to be de-energized. Additionally, generators can be fire hazards and sources of carbon monoxide poisoning. During the New England ice storms as many as 100 people were killed and 5000 injured by misuse of generators at home.

Safety experts recommend that generators operate in isolation from power lines by connecting appliances or other devices directly to the appropriate-sized cords.

Danger aside, sales of generators are brisk, and manufacturers and retailers have reported that they are struggling to make orders.

Some organizations have distributed safety warnings on the use of generators, and others such as the American Red Cross and Member Union, which publishes Member Reports, have advised against hooking them up at all.

"People are asking, should I buy a generator?" If you are going to use one, make sure it's hooked up safely.