Hurricane Prep 101: Use a generator safely

Never place a generator inside a building while it is running


Editor's note: This article and all of Gulf Coast Media's hurricane coverage is free as a public service. We believe having access to reliable, accurate and up-to-date local information before, during and after inclement weather is critical to the vitality and safety of the communities we serve and that money should not be a barrier to that access. We do, however, rely on paying subscribers to to support our independently, family owned business. If you value the local news you're reading and are not a subscriber, please consider becoming one today at

When the electricity stops running during and after a storm, many families turn to  portable, gas-run generators to keep their fridge on and a light or two running. 

Knowing how and where to use those generators is important, it could save your life. 

Portable back-up generators produce the poison gas

carbon monoxide (CO). CO is an odorless, colorless gas
that kills without warning. It claims the lives of hundreds
of people every year and makes thousands more ill.
Follow these steps to keep your family safe.

* Never use a generator inside your home or garage,
even if doors and windows are open.

  • Only use generators outside, more than 20 feet away
    from your home, doors, and windows.
  •  Install battery-operated or battery back-up CO
    detectors near every sleeping area in your home.
  •  Check CO detectors regularly to be sure they are
    functioning properly.
  • To avoid electrocution, keep the generator dry and do not use in rain or wet conditions. Operate it on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as under a tarp held up on poles. Do not touch the generator with wet hands.
  • Be sure to turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
  • Store fuel for the generator in an approved safety can. Use the type of fuel recommended in the instructions or on the label on the generator.
  • 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.
  • Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
    • Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. Known as “backfeeding,” this practice puts utility workers, your neighbors and your household at risk of electrocution.
    • Remember, even a properly connected portable generator can become overloaded, resulting in overheating or generator failure. Be sure to read the instructions.
    • If necessary, stagger the operating times for various equipment to prevent overloads.