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What’s More Dangerous… the Hurricane or the Generator?


With hurricane season in full swing for much of the east coast, the use of a back-up energy supply has become standard issue for many homes and businesses. While worrying about the potential damage from a hurricane, many do not realize the deadly dangers associated with generator use. These hazards can include carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrical shock and fire all of which can produce fatal after effects. It is vital when purchasing a generator that the owner’s manual and warning labels be reviewed thoroughly.

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has collected data citing nearly 600 generator-related CO deaths from 1999-2010. Most of these deaths were a result of using a generator inside the home, basement or garage. CO is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas and known as the “silent killer”. This is why generators must be placed outdoors in a well ventilated area preferably 15 feet from your home completely away from any ventilation intake vents or windows. It is essential that battery-operated CO alarms are installed outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home to ensure safety.

Because generators are often used when it is wet outside and the generator itself is outside, electrocution and/or shock occurs if precautions are not taken. It is important to operate the generator under an open canopy like structure on a dry surface where water cannot easily reach it. Appliances should be connected to the generator using heavy duty outdoor rated extension cords. Also the wattage rating for each cord should exceed the total wattage of all connected appliances. The generator itself should never be plugged into a wall outlet. This is extremely dangerous and can cause severe harm to utility workers or others on the same transformer as it bypasses some of your built-in protection devices.

Fires can also be avoided by turning off gasoline powered generators before refueling. To prevent spilled fuel from igniting on a hot generator, the generator should be given time to cool down. The gas itself should be stored in an ANSI-approved container and outside of the home in a well ventilated area. Also, use candles with caution. If possible, use flashlights instead. Fires are easily created when someone leaves the room unattended and/or forgets to blow them out before bed.

CED Engineers have a vast amount of experience investigating all of these accidents. Generator malfunctions, generator related fires/overheating, CO incidents, pipe explosions, generator installations, warning label/safety manual inspections and electrical issues are just some of the expertise that CED mechanical, electrical and fire experts can assist you with on your next case.

Please call us at 800.780.4221 or please contact one of our regional offices to speak with a case specialist.

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