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Hurricane Sandy: Test Your Back-Up Generator

Hurricane Sandy may combine with other storms Sunday through Tuesday, and widespread power outages are a possibility.

As Hurricane Sandy moves up the East Coast, residents may want to spend a few minutes this weekend making sure their back-up power generators are ready to go. 

Check the oil and gas levels in your generator prior to giving it a test run. After June's derecho, generator service companies in the area spent weeks repairing residential back-up generators that seized up or otherwise failed.

Also check the power capacity of your generator so you don't accidentally overload it if you need it, and be prepared to only operate essential items in your home, like the refrigerator and a lamp.

The U. S. Fire Administration (USFA) provides the following tips to prevent the loss of life and property resulting from improper use of portable generators.

To avoid carbon monoxide hazards:

  • Always use generators outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents.
  • Never use generators in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Install battery-operated or plugin (with battery backup) carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home, following manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Test CO alarms often and replace batteries when needed.

To avoid electrical hazards:

  • Keep the generator dry. Operate on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure.
  • Dry your hands before touching the generator.
  • Plug appliances directly into generator or use a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord.
  • Make sure entire extension cord is free of cuts or tears and the plug has all 3 prongs, especially a grounding pin.
  • NEVER plug the generator into a wall outlet. This practice, known as backfeeding, can cause an electrocution risk to utility workers and others served by the same utility transformer.
  • If necessary to connect generator to house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install appropriate equipment. Or, your utility company may be able to install an appropriate transfer switch.

To avoid fire hazards:

  • Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
  • Always store fuel outside of living areas in properly labeled, nonglass containers.
  • Store fuel away from any fuelburning appliance.

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