PGE outlines safest way to use generators during a power outage

In western Washington County, including Forest Grove, about half the residential homes are serviced by Portland General Electric.

The company's mailer insert recently answered customer queries about the best, safest way to use a power generator during a power outage, including how to protect themselves when power comes back on.

With winter on its way, some people find portable generators to be a handy backup power source if a major storm causes widespread power outages. But generators can be hazardous if used incorrectly.

Here are some key rules to keep you safe:

•Take the time to read the instruction manual. Always follow the rules in your generator's instruction manual. It includes many important details that will help keep you safe.

•Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Always operate a generator outside, away from windows and doors.

•Don't get shocked. Use only an outdoor-rated, grounded extension cord - one with a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) is best.

•Don't be tempted to back feed. Connect individual appliances only to the receptacle outlet of the generator. Never try to 'doctor' an extension cord to plug a generator into a regular household outlet, imagining this will power the whole house. This is extremely dangerous. It can ruin wiring, start a fire and even back feed electricity into the utility system and energize a line outside your home. An unsuspecting PGE lineman could be seriously injured or killed. If you follow instructions and only plug individual appliances to the generator, there won't be any problems when power is restored to your home. Simply turn off the appliance and unplug it from your generator and turn off the generator. Then, plug the appliance back in to the normal outlet in your home. The safest way to prevent generator back feed problems is to install a transfer switch, which permits the home's wiring system to be easily and cleanly disconnected from PGE's system and allows you to control the flow of electricity to those circuits you need most (like the furnace fan or refrigerator). Transfer switches are not inexpensive and require installation by a licensed electrician.

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