BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - As the weather cools and PG&E power shut-offs become more frequent, more people are turning to power generators for heat.
Butte County Public Health and Chico Fire representatives say it is important to use your generator correctly, to keep you and your loved ones safe from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electric shock, and fire. If you run a camp stove or generator inside of your home or garage, you could unknowingly inflict significant harm.
The Red Cross advises:
- 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.
Local laws may restrict the amount of fuel you may store, or the storage location. Ask your local fire department.
- Store the fuel outside of living areas in a locked shed or other protected area. To guard against accidental fire, do not store it near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage.
- 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.
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.
- Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area.
- Keep these devices outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
- Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home. Although CO can't be seen or smelled, it can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death. Even if you cannot smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY - DO NOT DELAY.
- Install CO alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.