June 1st brings the first day of the 2020 hurricane season to residents across the United States – and concern to the state of Florida as two named storms already formed before the first day of the season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an “above-normal” 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, with 13 to 19 named storms. Hurricane season traditionally begins June 1 and runs through November, but last month’s Tropical Storms made it the sixth straight year a named storm came in May or earlier.

With this increased activity expected, many will seek portable generators to support their homes should a storm hit. While generators are a great tool, unfortunately so many do not follow proper safety precautions resulting in electric shock, carbon monoxide poisoning, or fire. Education on fire safety is a priority for all of us here at Jack Ward Fire, so we’ve taken the time to break down some important factors when using a portable generator in a time of emergency.

  • Generators should be used in well ventilated locations outside at least 5 feet away from all doors, windows, and vent openings. Measure the 5-foot distance from the generator exhaust system to the building.
  • Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.
  • Place generators so that exhaust fumes can’t enter the home through windows, doors or other openings in the building. The exhaust must be directed away from the building.
  • Make sure to install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for correct placement and mounting height.
  • Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it is hot.
  • Store fuel for the generator in a container that is intended for the purpose and is correctly labeled as such. Store the containers outside of living areas.
  • When plugging in appliances, make sure they are plugged directly into the generator or a heavy duty outdoor-rated extension cord. The cords should be checked for cuts, tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
  • If you must connect the generator to the house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install a properly rated transfer switch in accordance with the National Electrical Code® (NEC) and all applicable state and local electrical codes.

For additional information on generator safety or hurricane preparedness, visit our friends at NFPA.org.