Generator Safety

Risks of Portable Generators

Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they can be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using them are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. A generator running indoors can kill the occupants in minutes.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is odorless, colorless and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, you may not know that you are being exposed.


Low to moderate poisoning symptoms are similar to those of the flu including:
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of Breath
High level of poisoning is progressive and results in the following.
  • Death
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Loss of Muscle Coordination
  • Mental Confusion
  • Vomiting

Avoid Carbon Monoxide Hazards

  • Always use generators outside, away from doors, windows and vents.
  • Never operate generators inside homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
  • Follow all manufacturer's instructions.
  • Install battery-operated or plug-in with battery backup carbon monoxide detectors in your home; follow all manufacturer's instructions for installing, testing, and replacing the batteries in your detector.

Avoid Electrical Hazards

  • Keep the generator dry by operating it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure.
  • Dry your hands before touching the generator.
  • Plug appliances directly into generator or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord. Make sure the entire extension cord is free of cuts or tears and the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
  • Never plug the generator into a wall outlet. This practice, known as back feeding, can cause an electrocution risk to utility workers and others served by the same utility transformer.
  • If it is necessary to connect the generator to your house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install appropriate equipment. Your utility company may be able to install an appropriate transfer switch.

Avoid Fire Hazards

  • Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
  • Always store fuel outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass containers.
  • Store fuel away from any fuel-burning appliance.

Learn more on the U.S. Fire Administration website.