Electric generators can help you in many ways during a power outage. That’s good news in winter when the potential for ice- and snow-related outages rises. Generators can run a refrigerator, keeping food from spoiling, operate life-sustaining equipment, run a small heater and allow you to have some lights.
Overcoming Mother Nature’s wrath with such a machine is nice, but it’s crucial to hook up the generator correctly and handle it with care.
Keep these safety tips in mind if you will be installing a generator:
- Install your generator outside under cover of a weather shield, like a vented shed. Most units use the type of gasoline used in a lawnmower, which when burning fuel emits deadly carbon monoxide fumes.
- Store gasoline safely. Many generators have tanks as big as five gallons. But because power outages aren’t frequent, there’s a good chance the gas in your machine will go bad between uses.
- Hire a licensed electrician to install the generator and a transfer switch (also called a double-pole/double-throw switch). Improper installation can send electricity from your generator onto utility power lines, energizing wires that line workers believe to be out of service. A GreyStone lineworker unaware of the situation could be killed.
- Buy a generator with enough capacity to run the appliances you will need during an outage. If you plan to operate expensive equipment like a computer, double-check with your dealer to make sure the generator can safely power sensitive electronics.
- Do business with a company that has a good reputation and offers a warranty.
Downed Power Lines
During high winds, electric lines can be torn down by limbs and trees. Any dangling line or lines on the ground can be deadly. All downed lines should be considered live. Call GreyStone’s office at 1-866-GREYSTONE (473.9786) to report a downed line, outage or any hazardous situation. GreyStone crews will be on the job 24 hours a day.
Power Line Safety
Accidentally contacting a power line can be dangerous and in some cases, even deadly. Your Touchstone Energy cooperative wants to help our members stay safe around power lines.
Whether you are playing outdoors with your children or working on landscaping projects, keep a safe distance from power lines and other equipment your co-op uses to get electricity to your home.
Always remember to:
- Stay away from power lines, meters, transformers and electrical boxes.
- Don’t climb trees near power lines.
- Never fly kits, remote control airplanes or balloons near power lines.
- If you get something stuck in a power line, call your Touchstone Energy co-op to get it.
- Keep a safe distance from overhead power lines when working with ladders or installing objects such as antennas.
- Never touch or go near a downed power line.
- Don’t touch anything that may be touching a downed wire, such as a car.
- Keep children and pets away.
If a power line falls on a car, you should stay inside the vehicle. This is the safest place to stay. Warn people not to touch the car or the line. Call or ask someone to call the local cooperative and emergency services.
The only circumstance in which you should consider leaving a car that is in contact with a downed power line is if the vehicle catches on fire. Open the door. Do not step out of the car. You may receive a shock. Instead, jump free of the car so that your body clears the vehicle before touching the ground. Once you clear the car, shuffle at least 50 feet away, with both feet on the ground.
As in all power line related emergencies, call for help immediately by dialing 911 or call your electric utility company's Service Center/Dispatch Office.
Do not try to help someone else from the car while you are standing on the ground.
Preventing Electrocutions Associated with Portable Generators Plugged Into Household Circuits
When power lines are down, residents can restore energy to their homes or other structures by using another power source such as a portable generator. If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
If it is necessary to use a portable generator, manufacturer recommendations and specifications must be strictly followed. If there are any questions regarding the operation or installation of the portable generator, a qualified electrician should be immediately contacted to assist in installation and start-up activities. The generator should always be positioned outside the structure.
When using gasoline- and diesel-powered portable generators to supply power to a building, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the "off" position prior to starting the generator. This will prevent power lines from being inadvertently energized by backfeed electrical energy from the generators, and help protect utility line workers or other repair workers or people in neighboring buildings from possible electrocution. If the generator is plugged into a household circuit without turning the main breaker to the “off” position or removing the main fuse, the electrical current could reverse, go back through the circuit to the outside power grid, and energize power lines or electrical systems in other buildings to at or near their original voltage without the knowledge of utility or other workers.
The problem of backfeed in electrical energy is a potential risk for electrical energy workers. Electrocutions are the fifth leading cause of all reported occupational deaths. Following the safety guidelines below can reduce this risk.
Generator use is also a major cause of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Generators should only be used in well ventilated areas.