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Use Generators Safely


Despite the best efforts of BEC, power outages happen. Under extreme circumstances, they can last for several days—causing some members to use portable emergency generators.

But, do you know about a potential danger with the use of generators? It’s called “backfeed” and it can endanger you, a family member or someone else — especially linemen or electricians working at your property.

What is backfeed? Backfeed occurs when power travels back through the utility lines and re-energizes them. Backfeed creates a very dangerous, and potentially deadly, situation for lineworkers at your electric cooperative. If your generator isn’t installed properly, the resulting backfeed of electric current could kill or severely injure a lineman working to restore your power.

If you use a generator, safety precautions are vitally important for our linemen and for you. Regardless of its age, always observe these safety rules when using your generator:

Use a portable generator only when necessary and only to power essential equipment.

Position generators out-doors and well away from any structure. Running a generator inside any enclosed or partially enclosed structure can lead to dangerous and fatal levels of carbon monoxide. Keep generators at least 15 feet away from open windows so exhaust does not enter homes or other buildings, and keep the machine away from play areas children might use.

If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, it’s likely you’re suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Get to fresh air right away. If you experience even more serious symptoms, get medical attention immediately. You should have a functioning battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm nearby while the generator is running.

Operate your generator on a dry surface and make sure your hands are dry before touching the generator. Do not use the generator in rainy or wet conditions.

Make sure your generator is properly grounded. Grounding generators can help prevent shocks and electrocution.

NEVER connect the generator to a wall outlet or electric panel. The backfeed can cause serious harm to you, your neighbors, and the utility workers working to restore electricity. If backfed, the power lines are re-energized by the generator. Thus, anyone in contact with the power line is at a high risk of an electric shock.

For generators that will be permanently installed, have a licensed electrician install the proper type transfer switch (check the BEC website for a list of local licensed electricians). The transfer switch isolates the main circuit from the generator. Thus, prevents backfeeding. You can either use a manual or an automatic transfer switch for this purpose.

Match the output capabilities of your generator to the appliances it will be powering. Overloading the generator can damage your appliances and expensive electronic equipment.

Plug appliances and equipment directly into the generator. Use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords that are in good working condition and are sized to handle the electric load of any connected appliances.

Keep in mind that some appliances need more electricity when they are first starting, such as freezers and refrigerators .

Unplug all items from the generator before turning it off.

Turn the generator off and let it cool before refueling. Use only the type of fuel recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions.

Posted: 1/18/2022 2:40:32 PM
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