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Jamaica Bay C.E.R.T

Use Your Portable Generator Safely 

There are a number of home owners in Jamaica Bay who have purchased portable generators in preparation for possible power outages. As members of your C.E.R.T. we have decided to offer recommendations on the safe use of your generator as they can be very hazardous if used improperly. These are only suggestions as the safe operation of the generator is the owner’s responsibility and the guidelines offered by the generator’s manufacturer must be followed. Treat your generator with respect and only operate it under the supervision of a responsible adult. Keep children and pets away from the generator while it is in use. Never operate an internal combustion engine inside your home, in your crawl space, in your shed or any other enclosed area. The generator needs a minimum of 3 to 4 feet of spacing on all sides (including the top). A generator needs an unlimited supply of fresh air for proper cooling during operation. Since combustion engines create carbon monoxide, which can be lethal, good ventilation is critical. Keep the generator dry and always operate it on a level surface.

Getting started

Never refuel a hot generator or one that is running: hot engine parts or exhaust can ignite gasoline.

Turn off all connected appliances before starting your generator.

Turn connected appliances on one at a time, never exceeding the generator’s rated wattage.

Get the most from your generator

o Save gas by using appliances only as needed.

o If no appliances are running, shut the generator off.

o If you are just running a few lights, using other sources may cost less than running the generator.

o Don't leave a running generator unattended; turn it off at night and when away from home.

Tip: Refrigerators may only need to run a few hours a day to preserve food. Using a refrigerator thermometer, aim to maintain 40 degrees in the refrigerator compartment and 0 degrees in the freezer. Be a good neighbor

If the power is out, your neighbors are probably sleeping with their windows open.

Consider that the sound of your generator may not be music to everyone's ears!

Carbon Monoxide Hazards

NEVER use a generator in enclosed or partially-enclosed spaces. 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 such as your shed.

The generator needs a minimum of 3 to 4 feet of spacing on all sides (including the top). A generator needs an unlimited supply of fresh air for proper cooling during operation. Generators can produce high levels of CO very quickly. When you use a portable generator, remember that you cannot smell or see CO. Even if you can't smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO.

The following website is a Consumer Product Safety Commission Safety Alert. This website safety alert is specifically about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide Gas (CO) and should be read for all who use a generator.


Follow these safety tips to protect against CO poisoning:

NEVER use a generator indoors, including in homes, crawl spaces, attached or unattached sheds and other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home.

Follow the instructions that come with your generator. Locate the unit outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors.

Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. The CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, or CSA 6.19.01).

Electrical Hazards

Follow these tips to protect against shock and electrocution:

Keep the generator dry and do not use in rain or wet conditions. To protect from moisture, operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. Dry your hands if wet before touching 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, a practice known as "back-feeding." This is an extremely dangerous practice that 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.

If you must connect the generator to the house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install the appropriate equipment in accordance with local electrical codes. Or, check with your utility company to see if it can install an appropriate power transfer switch.

Fire Hazards

Follow these tips to prevent fires:

Never store fuel for your generator in 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 them near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage. If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and can be ignited by the appliance’s pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.

Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.

The safe application of power to your home with a portable generator is achieved simply by using a quality extension cord capable of handling the electrical load (must be a well kept cord and if it ever heats up, it is not safe for supplying power as it presents a risk for fire or electrocution) and surge protected power strip from the generator directly to the appliance that you want to power. Don't overload extension cords by plugging in appliances that draw a total of more watts than the rating of the cord. Use only three-wire extension cords for appliances with three-prong plugs. Never remove the third (round or U-shaped) prong, which is a safety feature designed to reduce the risk of shock and electrocution.

Using a power requirement chart (see handout) you can determine which appliances can be powered safely. If power is out for several hours you will want to power your refrigerator and freezer to insure that no food spoilage occurs. Remember that it is not necessary to continually power these appliances if your generator has a small power output. Power management will allow you to utilize a small generator to power several appliances.

Do not leave your generator unattended. If you have to leave home or leave the generator unattended, turn it off. Maintain your generator engine for peak performance and safety by following the maintenance schedule


Become familiar with the generator by reading the owner’s manual before operation.

Be sure that anyone who operates the generator receives proper instruction on its safe operation and has read the owner’s manual. Do not let children operate the generator without parental supervision.

The operator is responsible for the safe operation of the generator.

Know how to stop the generator quickly in case of an emergency.

Understand the use of all generator controls, output receptacles, and connections.


Instruct inexperienced persons on safe operation of the generator.

Keep children and pets away from the generator while it is running.


Don't make modifications to the fuel or exhaust system.

Exhaust modifications can add stress to the original equipment exhaust system which can cause breakage resulting in exhaust leaks.

o Elbows in the modified exhaust system will create back pressure on the engine which reduces performance and shortens the engine service life.

o Larger auxiliary tanks added to the system will create more pressure on the inlet needle valve which may cause the inlet needle to lose its ability to regulate the fuel flowing into the carburetor. This may cause the crankcase engine oil to become diluted with fuel, spark plug and spark arrestor carbon build-up, and possible external fuel leaks which may result in fires.

Maintain the fuel system as original equipment.

Maintain the exhaust system as original equipment.


Don't operate the generator inside a building, vehicle, or an enclosure.

The engine’s exhaust contains poisonous carbon monoxide. If you run the generator in an area that is confined, even partially enclosed, or if the exhaust is pointed toward a partially enclosed work area, the air you breathe could contain a dangerous amount of exhaust gas.

To keep exhaust from building up, operate only in open areas and provide adequate ventilation.

The generator must also breathe fresh air. Intake air for generator and engine cooling, and combustion air must no be contaminated with engine exhaust.

Operate in open space.

Aim exhaust outlet AWAY from working areas.

Keep the area around the generator unobstructed for cooling and exhaust.


The generator produces enough electric power to cause a serious shock or electrocution if used in wet conditions.

Water decreases the resistance between the appliance, the operator, and earth which increases the likelihood of electrical shock.

Using a generator or electrical appliance in wet conditions, such as rain or snow, or near a pool or sprinkler system, or when your hands are wet, could result in electrocution.

If the generator is stored outdoors unprotected from the weather, check the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacle and all other electrical components on the control panel before each use.

Moisture can cause a malfunction or short circuit in electrical components which could result in electrocution.

Avoid operating the generator in rain.

Avoid operating the generator near a pool.

Avoid operating the generator near a sprinkler system.

Avoid operating the generator with wet hands, feet or clothing.


Operate the generator on a level surface.

o If the generator is operated at an angel, the lubrication system may fail causing a lack of lubrication to the critical moving parts of the engine.

The carburetor fuel level may be changed to cause the float to stay open to allow fuel to flow into the carburetor bowl unrestricted. This could cause spark plug fouling, piston/cylinder washing, and crankcase oil dilution.

o If the generator is operating on soft ground such as sand or soft soil, the generator will "dig in" creating an angle that will produce the same symptoms described above. If the angle becomes extreme, the generator may tip over.

o If the generator is operated in sandy, dusty conditions, the discharged air from the generator end will stir up dust. The dust will be sucked up into the air cleaner, shortening its service interval. Dust will also be drawn in with the generator cooling air, sandblasting the windings of the rotor and stator.

If the generator must be operated in loose or sandy surface conditions, place it on a piece of plywood or a stable platform.

Operate on a firm surface.

Operate away from dusty or sandy conditions.

Operate in dry conditions.


To be sure the generator is ready when you need it:

The generator should be started and loaded at least once a month.

The fuel tank should be kept filled with fresh fuel.

A fuel conditioner should be used to keep the fuel from breaking down.

A trickle charger should charge the battery monthly. The brief time the

generator is exercised may not be enough time to allow the generator’s charging system to adequately charge the battery.

Exercise the generator monthly under load

Keep battery charged

Keep tank filled with fresh fuel

You'll also need to consider the maximum and rated power of the generator. This is important depending on what items you want to run off of your generator. Items such as toaster, lamps, and coffee makers are resistive, or constant loads and their total load can be calculated at amps x 1. Items such as saws and drills are reactive loads and while the running load may be small, the starting load should be calculated at running amps x 3. Remember, after the initial start less power is required for actual operation. Always remember that simple power management will allow a smaller generator to do a big job. Very seldom are all tools or appliances operating simultaneously.

When calculating power requirements, consider the starting requirements are only for the initial start and then additional tools may be operated in addition. Many appliances have nameplates that state that units power requirement.

It is advised that a licensed electrician be consulted for any technical concerns regarding the use or performance of you generator.

Don't Overload, Be Safe

Generators are noisy, be courteous to your neighbor and only use your generator when it is necessary.

The following website is about Honda Generators and Safety,


It is suggested that you visit and read websites pertaining to generators and their use and safety if you choose to own a generator. Remember, always follow the manufacturer’s instruction manual, and visit the website of the manufacturer of the generator to increase your knowledge of the generator.

Jamaica Bay CERT does not endorse any specific generator or maker of generators.

Jamaica Bay CERT does endorse additional education for all people who choose to own a generator. One source of this education is the manufacturer of the generator you choose.