Are Portable Generators Dangerous?

Portable generators are helpful tools for temporary power outages or those living in rural areas without access to the power grid. Power from portable generators do more than keep you comfortable during a power outage. Many people rely on portable generators to keep their home medical equipment functioning, making them a life-saving tool in emergencies. 

With all the advantages of portable generators, you need to keep in mind that, like any tool, when misused, portable generators can be dangerous and even life-threatening. 

The Dangers of Portable Generators

How dangerous are portable generators? On average, more than 70 people a year die from accidents involving portable generators. Thousands more end up in hospitals with injuries caused by the misuse of portable generators. 

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Generators produce high amounts of carbon monoxide that, if not ventilated correctly, become a deadly poison. Carbon monoxide is hazardous because you can’t see or smell it. However, you can still be affected by carbon monoxide even if you can’t smell the exhaust. 

Within minutes, carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, confusion, difficulty breathing, and loss of consciousness. If not exposed to fresh air promptly, it suffocates a person. Even if the victim survives, the lack of oxygen to the brain and other vital organs can cause lifelong health problems. 

How to Protect Yourself

Never use a portable generator indoors or near an open window or door. You especially want to avoid small spaces such as garages, sheds, or crawl spaces. Opening the doors and windows or using fans isn’t a safe alternative. Keep the generator outside at least 20 feet from your home if possible. 

It’s also vital to install battery-powered CO alarms in your home to guarantee your safety. 

Electric Shock

Unfortunately, most people need generators during storms when the power is most likely to go out. Water over electrical cords or touching the generator with wet hands can cause shock and electrocution. 

Plugging the generator directly into an outlet sends uncontrolled current through the power lines putting utility workers and your neighbors in danger of being electrocuted as well. 

How to Protect Yourself

When using a generator in wet conditions, make sure you protect it from moisture. It’s best to operate it under an open-air tent or canopy that’s away from the house. Also, put the generator in a spot that water won’t pool around it, such as on a dry, elevated cement slab. 

Correctly ground your portable generator. Using a ground fault circuit interrupter automatically stops the electrical flow when someone is shocked.

Before touching the generator, dry your hands thoroughly and only use extension cords designed for outdoor use. The wattage of the cable should exceed the total wattage of all your appliances. Never plug your generator into an outlet without first having a professional install a transfer switch


The combination of gasoline and electricity in generators makes them a fire hazard. If gasoline spills on any hot parts of the engine, it could cause the generator to ignite.

How to Protect Yourself

Store fuel away from your home and properly label it in safety containers. The gasoline should never be stored or used near any fuel-burning appliances, fireplaces, or anywhere else a spark could cause ignition. 

Before refueling your generator, turn it off and give it plenty of time to cool down. 

Using Your Portable Generator Safely

Generators are essential, life-saving tools during emergencies. However, if you choose to use one, you need to understand the risks and necessary safety precautions. 

The professionals at Midwest Generator Solutions can help you set up and use your portable generator in the safest way possible. Contact us today to learn more! 


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