November 18, 2017

Use Portable Generators Safely

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is issuing a warning to consumers confronted with severe winter weather. When there’s a power outage, exercise caution when using portable generators.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible killer. You can’t see or smell it. A generator’s exhaust contains poisonous CO which can kill you in a matter of minutes.

At least 65 people died in 2006 from generator-related CO poisoning. Many of the deaths occurred after winter storms knocked out power.

Follow these important generator safety tips:

  • Never use a portable generator inside a home, garage, shed or other partially enclosed space, even if doors and windows are open.
  • Use portable generators outside only, far away from the home. And keep the generator away from openings to the home, including doors, windows and vents.
  • Read the label on the generator and the owner’s manual, and follow the instructions.
  • Install CO alarms with battery backup in the home outside each sleeping area.
  • Get to fresh air immediately if you start to feel sick, weak or dizzy. CO poisoning from exposure to generator exhaust can quickly lead to incapacitation and death.

CPSC recently mandated a new danger label on generators manufactured after May 14, 2007. The label states that, “Using a generator indoors CAN KILL YOU IN MINUTES.”

CPSC has additional rulemaking underway on generators. The Commission directed staff to investigate various strategies to reduce consumers’ exposure to CO and to enable and encourage them to use generators outdoors only. Those strategies include generator engines with substantially reduced CO emissions, interlocking or automatic shutoff devices, weatherization requirements, theft deterrence and noise reduction.

In addition to safe generator use, CPSC suggests consumers follow these safety tips after a storm:

  • Never use charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal in an enclosed space can produce lethal carbon monoxide.
  • Use caution when burning candles. Use flashlights instead. If you must use candles, do not burn them on or near anything that can catch fire. Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish candles when you leave the room.
  • Do not use portable heaters or lanterns while sleeping in enclosed areas such as tents, campers, and other vehicles. This is especially important at high altitudes, where the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is increased.