If you ran out in a tizzy to buy a generator ahead of Florence, chances are you might not be an expert on how to use it.
But a few helpful tips on how to safely operate one could save you from becoming one of the 20,000 people a year sent to the emergency room due to carbon monoxide poisoning, according to a 2013 study published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
A report released that same year by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 85 percent of reported deaths associated with generators happed in houses less than 2,000 square feet.
With that in mind, here are a few tips from the National Safety Council, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on how to safely operate a generator should your power go out:
1. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions before running generator.
2. Engines emit carbon monoxide. Never use a generator inside your home, garage, crawl space or other enclosed areas. Fatal fumes can build up, and neither a fan nor open doors and windows can provide enough fresh air.
3. Only use your generator outdoors, away from open windows, vents, or doors.
4. Use a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector in the area in which you’re running a generator.
5. Gasoline and its vapors are extremely flammable. Allow the generator engine to cool at least two minutes before refueling, and always use fresh gasoline. If you do not plan to use your generator in 30 days, don’t forget to stabilize the gas with fuel stabilizer.
6. Maintain your generator according to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for peak performance and safety.
7. Never operate the generator near combustible materials.
8. If you have to use extension cords, be sure they are of the grounded type and are rated for the application. Coiled cords can get extremely hot; always uncoil cords and lay them in flat, open locations.
9. Never plug your generator directly into your home outlet. That’s known as “backfeeding” and puts people in risk of electrocution – especially utility workers trying to reconnect electric power after the storm.
10. Generators produce powerful voltage. Never operate under wet conditions. Take precautions to protect your generator from exposure to rain.
11. Plug appliances directly into the generator, or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated, in watts or amps, at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.
As of Friday at 11:08 a.m., Florence was a Category 1 storm with winds of 80 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. Hovering about 140 miles northeast of Charleston, a hurricane watch is still in effect for Charleston and Berkeley counties, along with a tropical storm warning for Dorchester County.