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.
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
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
o If no appliances are running, shut the generator
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
Consider that the sound of your generator may not be music to
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
Follow these safety tips to protect against CO
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
Follow these tips to protect against shock and
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
Follow these tips to
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
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
BE FAMILIAR WITH THE GENERATOR
Become familiar with the generator by reading the owner’s manual
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
Know how to stop the generator quickly in case of an
Understand the use of all generator controls, output receptacles,
READ THE OWNER'S MANUAL
Instruct inexperienced persons on safe operation of the generator.
Keep children and pets away from the generator while it is running.
KEEP THE GENERATOR ORIGINAL
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.
OPERATE THE GENERATOR IN THE OPEN
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
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.
OPERATE IN DRY CONDITIONS
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
Moisture can cause a malfunction or short circuit in electrical components which could result in
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 ON FIRM, LEVEL SURFACE
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
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
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
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
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
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.