Electric generators can provide you with piece of mind and convenience when there is a temporary loss of electric service during cold weather. Be aware that fire hazards are greatly increased in the winter because alternate heating sources often are used without following proper safety precautions.
Follow these safety guidelines when operating a generator:
Before installing a generator, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. If possible, have your generator installed by a qualified electrician.
Run generators outside, downwind of structures. NEVER run a generator indoors. Deadly carbon monoxide gas from the generators exhaust can spread throughout enclosed spaces. Install a carbon monoxide detector.
Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion. If your generator has a detachable fuel tank remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Most small, home-use portable generators produce 350 to 12,000 watts of power. Overloading your generator can damage it and the appliances connected to it, and may cause a fire. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Keep children away from generators at all times.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer claiming about 1,000 lives each year in the United States. Such common items as automotive exhaust, home heating systems and obstructed chimneys can produce the colorless, odorless gas. The gas can also be produced by poorly vented generators, kerosene heaters, gas grills and other items used for cooking and heating when used improperly during the winter months.
NEVER run generators indoors. Open a window slightly when using a kerosene heater.
NEVER use charcoal to cook indoors.
NEVER use a gas oven to heat your home.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and dizziness. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the area and get to a hospital.
Prevent Water Pipes from Freezing
To prevent frozen water pipes, follow these tips:
Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers – cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture.
Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing. Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall.
Teach family members how to shut off water valves.
Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to un-insulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.
Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
If you plan to be away:
o Have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is still on to prevent freezing, or;
o Drain and shut off the water system (except indoor sprinkler systems).
If Pipes Freeze
Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst. Stopping the water flow minimizes the damage to your home. Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent.
NEVER try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.
If You Lose Power
If you lose electrical service during the winter, follow these tips:
First, call your utility to determine area repair schedules.
Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate when power has been restored.
If heat goes out during a winter storm, keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need.
Alternative Heating Safety Tips
Use only safe sources of alternative heat such as a fireplace, small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heaters. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, woodstove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation. Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces.
Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors – and make sure they work.
If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips:
o Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
o Use only the correct fuel for your unit.
o Refuel outdoors ONLY and only when the unit is cool.
o Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.
o When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly.
When venturing outdoors, wear loose, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. Trapped air between the layers acts as an insulator. Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill.
Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.
Always wear a hat or cap on your head – half of the body’s heat can be lost because of an uncovered head.
Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves because fingers maintain more warmth when they touch each other.
Cold temperatures put an extra strain on your heart. Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, can increase the risk of a heart attack. Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors. Take frequent rests to avoid over exertion. If you feel chest pain — STOP and seek help immediately.
For more information, and a list of essential emergency safety items to keep in your home, visit the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services winter safety page at http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/publicsafety/winter.cfm.