Portable Generator Tips & Community Resource links

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  1. Safety Alert! Portable generators come with a number of dangers and great care is required when operating one. There have been several instances lately of them causing fires, and you don’t want to be the one held responsible for burning down your neighborhood or worse, the community!
  2. For a variety of safety-related reasons, a portable generator should be tied into an electrical subpanel, dedicated to critical circuits, operated via a transfer switch. Running a bunch of extension cords from the generator outside into your building is not recommended for the types of multiple-day power outages we’ve had and are likely to see many more of in the future. See this month’s companion article on generator selection for more on this.
  3. Be very careful when filling up the generator. Spilled gas is a fire risk. TAKE GREAT CARE TO AVOID SPILLING *ANY* GAS. We’ve found the “no spill” type works best (see picture). You can “meter” the flow with the push button opposite the spout and better avoid overflows. Be sure the generator is turned off and cool before fueling it.gas for a generator, gas can nevada county placer california
  4. If you use a rag to wipe up gas, do not crumple it up or pack it into a trash can as it can ignite through spontaneous combustion. Until the gas evaporates that rag is highly flammable. The best solution? See #3 above!
  5. Place your gas can away from your generator, and have a gasoline rated fire extinguisher available close by, but not close enough to where a fire could prevent you from getting to it.
  6. Generator exhaust gives off deadly carbon monoxide fumes and other harmful byproducts of combustion. Operate it outdoors in an area with plenty of ventilation. Never run a generator in a home, garage or outside a window or anywhere else where fumes might potentially enter a building.
  7. Never plug a generator into a wall outlet or connect it to your electrical panel (except as described in item 2 above).
  8. Use heavy-duty extension cords to connect appliances to the outlets on the generator. Here’s a link covering many of the safety issues related to them as well as tips for selecting the right size –
  9. Do not use a damaged extension cord, they could spark and cause a fire or electrocute someone. Do not use a cord that’s missing the ground prong. Do not cover cords or pinch them in a door or window, they can heat up and burn; if you think about it, this is a big drawback to running extension cords into a building. Leaving a door or window ajar will let in hot or cold air, depending on the time of year, bugs, etc. Also check your generator manual for requirements related to grounding your generator.
  10. Extension cords are intended to be exposed to open air. The more they’re covered up the hotter they’ll get. A small enough cord with enough power going through it can heat up and burn if it’s covered up. A coiled-up extension cord can heat up and burn too.burnt extension cord sierra foothills northern california
  11. Turn the generator on before plugging appliances to it. Once the generator is running, turn your appliances and lights on one at a time to avoid overloading the unit. Remember, generators are for temporary usage; prioritize your needs.
  12. Keep children and pets away from portable generators. Many generator components are hot enough to burn you during operation.
  13. Follow the maintenance requirements described in your generator’s manual. A number of people went to fire up their generator during the outages and found they didn’t work. Maintenance saves you costly repairs down the road as well. It may also void the warranty.

Some extra thoughts…

1. Help neighbors charge their devices in case they need to reach out in an emergency.
2. If you have water, do your neighbors need any?

Links to critical information:

If PG&E determines they will turn power off, they will activate a Community Resource Center to provide restrooms, bottled water, electronic device charging and air-conditioned seating which will be open from 8:00AM – 8:00PM beginning on Thursday, October 24, 2019.

The centers in Nevada County are located at:

  • Nevada City Elks Lodge: 518 CA-49, Nevada City, CA
  • Sierra College: 250 Sierra College Dr, Grass Valley, CA
  • Former Penn Valley Community Church: 11739 Spenceville Road, Penn Valley, CA
  • Gold Country Fairgrounds: 209 Fairgate Rd, Auburn, CA