WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Portable generators are flying off the shelves as East Coast residents prepare for what is likely to be lengthy, widespread power outages following Hurricane Sandy. However, if used improperly, those generators can be deadly.
To keep you and your family safe, please note the following safety tips from The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety:
• Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from engine exhaust is a common and serious danger if generators are used improperly, in particular, if the fuel is not burned completely. Install a CO detector to warn of rising levels.
• Never use generators indoors or outside near windows, vents, or air intakes that could allow CO to come indoors. Also be sure to maintain plenty of air flow space around the generator.
• Carefully follow all instructions on properly "grounding" the generator.
• Keep the generator dry. If needed, operate portable generators under an open canopy type structure. Short circuits may occur in wet conditions resulting in the generator catching fire.
• Store fuel in an approved storage container or holding tank designed for such use, and only use fuel that is recommended in the owner's manual. Never store fuel indoors.
• Do not keep fuel near the electric generator while the electric generator is in use, as it could start a fire.
• Never refuel while the generator is running, and always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher located nearby.
• The exterior portions of a generator, even those operated for only a short period of time, can become hot. Avoid touching the generator without protective gear and keep debris clear to avoid a fire.
Most portable generators are only designed to work with a few appliances and will not power everything in your house. An overloaded power cord could potentially start a fire, so be sure to pick a cord that can handle the load. And be prepared, most generator have a relatively short run-time and may need to be refueled several times a day during a prolonged power outage.