As the current weather forecast for Metro Detroit has reported sleet and freezing rain throughout the day on Wednesday, there is a possibility of widespread power outages. It is common for residents to use gas-powered portable generators to maintain the electrical power within their homes until their normal service is restored.
Generators help ease the struggles faced when dealing with power outages, but they also present hazards that need to be made clear to those who use them. These hazards include carbon monoxide poisoning from engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, and fire.
Dearborn Heights officials urge all residents who are using portable generators to consider these important tips shared in a press release when running them:
Closely follow the instructions and safety tips that come with your generator; never operate a generator indoors or in partially enclosed spaces, including homes, garages, basements or crawl spaces — even if these areas offer partial ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent carbon monoxide build-up in the structure; never operate a generator in areas where people or animals are present. Place generators away from open doors and windows when in use.
Carbon monoxide fumes emitted by gasoline engines cannot be smelled or seen, and can be fatal. This can happen without the victims ever noticing the danger. You may still be exposed to exhaust fumes even if you do not smell it. If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air immediately. If you experience serious symptoms, get medical attention immediately and inform the medical staff that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. If the symptoms occurred while indoors, call the fire department to determine if it is safe to re-enter the building.
An effective way to combat potential carbon monoxide poisoning is to install carbon monoxide alarms within your home to warn you when carbon monoxide levels from any source pose a serious health risk. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended placement.
Always make your connections with heavy-duty extension cords. Unless you plug your appliances directly into the generator, it’s important to connect your generator through a professionally-installed transfer switch in accordance with local building codes instead of plugging the generator into a household outlet. Plugging into an outlet could energize overhead power lines (through “backfeed”) and potentially injure or electrocute unwary utility line workers – as well as risking damage to electronic devices in your home.
It is also important to ensure all power cords are in good condition and not worn, frayed or damaged. Never store fuel for your generator in your house. 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. Also, before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
Anyone with questions regarding the safe use of portable generators should call Dearborn Heights Building Department Director Eric Watland at (313) 791-3480.
“Portable generators can provide great benefits when the power goes out,” Watland said in a press release. “We just want everyone to stay accident-free by following these few simple safety rules and exercising some good common sense.”
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