Red Cross Offers Generator Safety Tips Ahead of Storm

PROVIDENCE, R.I., February 8, 2013 — The winter storm bearing down on Rhode Island today may bring power outages and many people may plan to utilize back-up generators. While generators are handy to have during inclement weather, it is important to operate them safely to protect your family from home from dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning or risk of fire.

General Generator Safety

  • DO NOT operate a generator inside homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, sheds, or other partially-enclosed spaces even if using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these spaces and can linger for hours, even after the generator is shut down.
  • Operate the equipment ONLY outside and far from windows, doors and vents to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide gas from accumulating and potentially being drawn towards occupied spaces.
  • ALWAYS place a portable generator downwind and point the engine exhaust away from occupied spaces.
  • Shut down the generator when refueling. Always refuel the generator outside your home, garage or shed.
  • Always read and follow the equipment Operator’s Manual before use.
  • Engine exhaust contains carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that could kill you in minutes. You cannot smell it, see it or taste it. Even if you do not smell exhaust fumes, you could still be exposed to carbon monoxide gas.
  • Install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms or plug-in carbon monoxide alarms with battery back-up according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Smoke alarms do not detect carbon monoxide gas.
  • If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using the portable generator, shut it off and get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY. See a doctor. You may have carbon monoxide poisoning.

Know the Warning Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to those caused by other illnesses such as a cold, flu or food poisoning. Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning consist of:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Faintness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

If you suspect that you are experiencing any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, get to fresh air immediately.

To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  • Never operate a portable generator or any other gas engine-powered tool in or near an enclosed space.
  • Install a CO alarm that meets the current UL2034 safety standard.
  • A CO alarm can provide added protection, but it is no substitute to proper use and upkeep of your generator.

For more storm and cold weather safety information, visit “Like” us on Facebook by visiting us today at, or follow us on twitter at


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