Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they also can be hazardous when used improperly. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, fire and burns.
Every year, people die in incidents related to portable generator use. Most of the incidents associated with portable generators reported to CPSC involve CO poisoning from generators used indoors or in partially enclosed spaces.
Generators can pose a risk of shock and electrocution, especially if they are operated in wet conditions. If you must use a generator when it is wet outside, protect the generator from moisture (as described in the owner’s manual) to help avoid the shock/electrocution hazard, but do so without operating the generator indoors or near openings to any
building that can be occupied in order to help avoid the CO hazard. Operate the generator on a dry surface where water cannot reach it or puddle or drain under it. Dry your hands, if wet, before touching the generator.
Connect appliances to the generator using heavy-duty extension cords that are specifically designed for outdoor use. Make sure the wattage rating for each cord exceeds the total wattage of all appliances connected to it. Use extension cords that are long enough to allow the generator to be placed outdoors and far away from windows, doors and vents to the home or to other structures that could be occupied. Check that the entire length of each cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three (or four) prongs. Protect the cord from getting pinched or crushed, and follow all cord safety labels including any limits on cord
Never try to power home wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “backfeeding.” This is extremely dangerous and presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.
Never store fuel for your generator inside the home. Gasoline, propane, kerosene, and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly-labeled, non-glass safety containers. Do not store any of these substances near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage.
Before refueling a generator, turn it off and let it cool down for at least two minutes before removing the fuel cap. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite. Never refuel a running portable generator.