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Powering safely during an outage

Article was added on Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Floyd L. Keels - ThumbnailOne of the great things about the modern American electric grid is that power almost always flows when we need it. Given our dependence on electricity, it's understandable why portable generators are popular when the power goes out and stays out for a while. When the power does go out, it can be a particular problem for folks like tobacco farmers with crops in the process of curing in the barns.

Though standby generators can be very effective, they can cause more harm than good if not used properly on the farm or in the home. In honor of Electrical Safety Month, recognized each May, I want to give you a few safety tips to protect yourself and our linemen who are working to restore your power.

First, never, ever plug a portable generator directly into one of your home's outlets-unless you have had a licensed electrician install a "transfer switch" in your home. If you don't have a transfer switch, power provided by the generator can "backfeed" along power lines, which can electrocute a lineman working on those lines.

In addition, portable generators create carbon monoxide, the odorless, colorless gas that can quickly become deadly if the generator isn't exhausted outside. Attached garages with an open door don't count-the carbon monoxide can still seep indoors and poison inhabitants. Generators must go outside in a dry area, which might mean you'll need to rig a canopy to protect it from precipitation at a safe distance from your home's windows, doors, and vents. How far is a safe distance? Even 15 feet can be too close.

Other things to keep in mind: Plug appliances directly into the generator using heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords, but don't overload it. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for maximum load. Shut off the generator before refueling, or a fire could start-and it's a good idea to have a fully charged fire extinguisher nearby, just in case.

Safety is a top priority at Santee Electric Cooperative, for our employees and members alike. For more tips on how to stay safe during a power outage, visit or

Floyd L. Keels

President and Chief Executive Officer

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