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Exhaust from backup generators, both portable and stationary, contains a high level of carbon monoxide (CO) gas, which can be dangerous or even fatal if inhaled.

  • Read and follow the operator's manual closely before operating your generator.
  • Locate the generator outside of your home and far away from windows, doors and vents.NEVER LOCATE A GENERATOR INSIDE YOUR HOME.
  • Direct exhaust away from windows, doors and vents.
  • Do not operate a generator in partially enclosed spaces, even if using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation.
  • Install CO detectors/alarms throughout your home to ensure you are aware of the presence of CO gas. You cannot see, smell or taste CO.

Follow these important electrical safety tips at all times when operating your backup generator:

  • Operate the generator on a dry surface where water cannot reach it, or puddle or drain under it.
  • Dry your hands, if wet, before touching the generator.
  • If you must use a generator in wet conditions, protect the generator from moisture (as described in the owner's manual) to help avoid shock or electrocution hazard. This should be done without operating the generator indoors or near openings to any building that can be occupied in order to help avoid CO hazards.
  • NEVER try to power home wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as "backfeeding." This is extremely dangerous and presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same circuit. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.

When connecting appliances to the generator using an extension cord, follow these steps:

  • Use heavy-duty extension cords that are specifically designed for outdoor use.
  • Make sure the wattage rating for each cord exceeds the total wattage of all appliances connected to it.
  • Use extension cords that are long enough to allow the generator to be placed outdoors and far away from windows, doors and vents to the home or to other structures that could be occupied.
  • Check that the entire length of each cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three (or four) prongs.
  • Protect the cord from getting pinched or crushed, and follow all cord safety labels including any limits on cord length.

In addition, use care when handling and storing fuel for your generator to avoid potential fire hazards:

  • Never store fuel for your generator inside the home. Gasoline, propane, kerosene, and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly-labeled, non-glass safety containers. Do not store any of these substances near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage.
  • Before refueling a generator, turn it off and let it cool down for at least two minutes before removing the fuel cap. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite. Never refuel a running portable generator.

Using a backup generator presents the risk of CO poisoning or even death. Because you cannot see, smell or taste CO, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning.

Symptoms of low-level CO poisoning can be similar to those of common illnesses, such as a cold, flu or food poisoning. These include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

If you experience any of these symptoms, get outside to fresh air immediately and call 911 for emergency medical attention. Very high levels of CO can cause victims to quickly lose consciousness before they can rescue themselves. DO NOT attempt to shut off the generator before moving to fresh air. Entering an enclosed space where a generator is or has been running may put you at greater risk of CO poisoning.


If you have a generator, please learn how to use it properly and safely. 


The following organizations provide information on their websites about safety:

 CDC – Centers for Disease Control              

 The National Red Cross                                 

 JCP&L – a First Energy Company                  

 National Safety Council                                  

 The National Fire Protection Association