Staying Safe While Using Portable Generators During Power Outages

While portable generators can be very helpful during power outages, it is imperative that the public follow the safety guidelines when using them. Gas generators produce carbon monoxide! Below are several fact sheets, safety tips, toolkits, and other resources which I hope you will distribute to partners and post on your websites to help spread this important message to the public.

Fire & Safety Tips From the Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center to Avoid Burns


Always read the manufacturer's instructions on any generator and follow them completely. They explain how to run the equipment safely including:

  1. Safety precaution
  2. How to run the unit appropriately
  3. How to cool the unit off
  4. How to fuel safely
  5. What extension cords are to be used safely

Gasoline Generators Produce Carbon Monoxide!

Generators must always be used outside, never inside, including in the garage, even with doors and windows open. Carbon Monoxide gas is a by-product that is odorless, and tasteless, with no fumes to alert us. The build-up of CO requires a fire department fan and equipment to remove. Opening windows and doors will not be effective.

  • Do not leave the gasoline can next to the generator.
  • Monitor the generator frequently, and turn it off when not in use.
  • Always have a battery-operated CO detector when using a generator, even if the generator is outside. Any change in the wind could potentially send fumes back into your house via any open window/door.
  • When filling the generator, make sure to allow unit cooling time before restarting. Gasoline is extremely flammable. Please check your manufactures recommendations regarding cooling time.
  • Never place the generator near combustibles, i.e. wood, housing, furniture, clothing, or gasoline can
  • Never plug a generator directly into home outlets. Only use manufacturer-recommended heavy-duty extension cords.
  • Generators should be treated as you would any electrical appliance, in terms of water. Please make sure you are not standing in water when using it.

Signs and Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Exposure

CO directly poisons the cells, especially the brain. Symptoms are variable, related to overall saturation, and include:

  • 0 to 05% normal value
  • 15% to 20% headaches, fatigue, confusion
  • 20% to 40% hallucination, combativeness, nausea, visual changes
  • 40% to 60% hallucination, combativeness, coma
  • >60% mortality rate of 50% or more

Seek Medical Attention immediately if symptoms appear!

Use of Gasoline

  • Make sure it is stored in a UL approved container
  • Transport gasoline secured in vehicle to avoid spillage
  • No smoking near any gasoline or gas cans. Fumes are flammable.
  • When pouring gasoline make certain that there is no spillage on side of container or around your work area.

Household Heating

  • Never heat your home with a gas oven. Heating is not approved by manufacturers as gas produces carbon monoxide. Also, many times the oven door is left open an inch or so to allow the heat to permeate the room. This leaves the potential for fires because of combustible materials in a kitchen.
  • Use caution when using boiling water for bathing especially with and around small children. Always check the bathtub temperature with your elbow/hand to ensure the water is of safe temperature.


  • More than half of all candle fires start when something that could burn, such as furniture, mattresses or bedding, curtains, or decorations is too close to the candle
  • The risk of fatal candle fires appears higher when candles are used for light
  • Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, have extra batteries for lighting
  • If you do use candles, ensure they are in sturdy metal, glass or ceramic holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn
  • Never use a candle where medical oxygen is being used. The two can combine to create a large, unexpected fire
  • Always use a flashlight - not a candle - for emergency lighting
  • Extinguish candles after use and before going to bed
  • Never leave burning candles unattended!

Treat Every Power Line as if Life

Although power may have been disconnected by the power company - solar panels may re-activate lines.

  • General First Aid
  • Cool all burns immediately with cool, tepid water, not ice
  • Do not apply any ointments, butter, or other home remedies. Use only approved topical burn creams
  • Seek medical attention for any burn larger than a person's hand size
  • For electrical burns make sure the power source is shut off before touching or removing a victim