Safety Tips For Portable & Standby Generators


Severe weather can cause extensive damage to power lines. When an extended power failure results, portable and standby generators can be great emergency resources.


Safety Coordinator Doug Bagby reminds us that generators must be connected safely and used properly. The two biggest hazards are carbon monoxide poisoning and "back-feed."


Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.  Always place the generator outdoors and make certain it is vented to the open air. Never operate it indoors, in a confined area (such as a garage, shed, or similar area), or near windows and doors, even with fans running.


Generators produce gases, including deadly carbon monoxide (CO), which you can't see or smell. If you feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air immediately. CO can build up and linger for hours after the generator is turned off.


Follow the manufacturer's instructions. Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery backup in your home. Test CO alarms often and replace batteries as needed.


Carbon dioxide (CO2) from generators can also be a problem if it displaces too much oxygen.


Avoid back-feed. An improperly connected generator can "back-feed" electricity from a home to the power line. The same transformer that reduces power line voltage for home use — 120/240 volts — will increase generator voltage to 7,200 volts or greater, and send it into the path of a lineman working to restore power. This can be fatal.


Consumers who plan to wire a standby generator into their electrical system should coordinate the work through a licensed electrical contractor.


The following tips may help portable and standby generator users protect themselves, their families and Cuivre River linemen from back-feed and other hazards. Careful operation helps prevent appliance damage as well.


  • Plug appliances directly into the portable generator. Note its wattage capacity to avoid a dangerous overload. Using too many appliances increases the risk of an electrical fire and may damage connected home appliance.
  • Before you plug in appliances, have the generator running at full speed. Appliances plugged in prior to starting the generator may be damaged as the generator starts and reaches full power.
  • Never wire a portable, temporary generator fired by gasoline or diesel fuel to a circuit breaker, fuse, outlet or your home's service entrance panel.
  • The most common portable units — like those used at home construction sites — allow you to plug individual items, like power tools and small appliances, directly into the generator. It powers only those items and is not connected to your home's electrical wiring.
  • Get help from a qualified electrician to connect a standby generator directly to your electrical system. Special precautions should be taken to make sure the installation is safe and complies with the National Electrical Code. An electrician can help you obtain proper switches and connections for this type of generator.
  • If the generator requires direct wiring, install a double-throw switch or auxiliary generator panel. The switch makes it possible to connect to the main power source OR the generator, but will not allow connection to both at the same time.


This switch protects linemen from the dangers of unknown "live" wires, and protects the generator and connected appliances from damage that could occur if the generator is operating when the main power source is restored.


If you loan your generator to someone else, they must also have this double-throw switch or generator panel.


Handle fuel safely and refuel the generator carefully. Make sure the engine is cool to prevent a fire, should the tank overflow. Store gasoline, propane, kerosene and other flammable liquids outside of living areas. Use properly labeled non-glass safety containers. Do not store fuel near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater. To prevent potentially fatal injuries and appliance damage, use generators with great care.

Be Storm Smart Generator Safety Video...


For more information contact Cuivre River Safety Coordinator Doug Bagby, (800) 392-3709, ext. 4868 or email


At Cuivre River, electrical safety is a top priority.

Cuivre River Electric is Missouri’s largest electric distribution cooperative, providing a safe and dependable supply of electricity and related services to more than 62,500 members in our community. We understand the responsibility we have as an electric distribution cooperative and recognize safety as one of our core values.


Education, Training and Information. The cooperative principle Cuivre River Electric abides by to educate our members, directors and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of our cooperative.


Cuivre River Electric’s Safety Committee increases our employee’s electrical safety awareness through various U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) safety regulations. The Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (AMEC) provides additional training programs.


Safety. We believe safety is a culture that starts with our employees. As one of our core values we are committed to developing this culture within our organization and developing our employees to be leaders in electrical safety.


The Cuivre River Electric network covers more than 2,000 square miles across Lincoln, Pike, St. Charles and Warren counties. Our distribution infrastructure includes more than 3,115 miles of overhead power lines using over 69,500 utility poles and more than 2,640 miles of underground power lines.


Cuivre River Electric’s Communication Department produces and provides educational materials, news releases and community programs regarding the dangers of electricity inside and outside a member’s home or business.


  • Severe Weather Safety
  • Flood Safety
  • Freezing Weather Safety
  • Thunderstorm Safety
  • Workplace Safety

The Cuivre River Electric service area is within a region prone to thunderstorms and other severe weather conditions, such as high winds, tornadoes, and flash floods. When you know the risks and what actions to take, you can better protect your family and property.

Make sure the electric circuit breakers or fuses are clearly marked for each area of your home or business.

If high water is approaching and the floor is dry, turn off the electricity at the main circuit breaker or fuse box.

Unplug appliances — but again, only if you don't have to stand in water. If possible, move larger appliances such as washing machines to a higher floor, or place them on concrete blocks.

If you use a generator, only connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a generator to a home's electric system.

Don't go into any room or basement if water is covering appliance cords that are plugged in or if water has reached the wall outlets.

Do not enter a room if you hear popping or buzzing, or if you see sparks.

Remain a safe distance from all ground-level electric boxes to avoid a hazard.

Before entering a flooded building or basement, make certain the electricity is off.

If the electric panel is covered by water, the resident or business should contact an electrician to determine the safety of the unit.

Be careful around downed tree limbs. They can conduct electricity from wet or broken power lines.

Contact Cuivre River Electric at (800) 392-3709, ext. 4390 if you see a downed power line.

Have your heating system inspected by a qualified service professional once a year. This inspection should include cleaning and lubrication, replacing filters, checking belts and thermostats and clearing vents of obstructions, as necessary.

Turn off and unplug electric blankets if not in use. Never tuck in electric blankets.

Use electric products only for their intended purposes. Hair dryers and space heaters, for example, aren't intended to thaw frozen pipes, dry clothing or warm bedding.

Keep flammable materials, such as bedding, clothing, drapes, furniture or rugs, a minimum of 3 feet from portable electric heaters, even ones with safety features such as cut-off switches or heating element guards.

Don't use space heaters where children may be unsupervised.

Turn off and unplug space heaters when they're not in use.

Unplug electronic equipment before the storm arrives.

Avoid contact with corded phones and devices, including those plugged in for recharging.

Unplug appliances and other electric items such as computers, and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.

Avoid contact with plumbing and bathroom fixtures. They can conduct electricity.

Stay away from windows and doors and stay off porches.

Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.

Avoid natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.

Stay away from hilltops, open fields, the beach or a boat on the water.

Prevent contact with anything metal — tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs and bicycles.

Always assume power lines are live. This applies to power lines on utility poles as well as those near homes and buildings. Even though you may notice a covering on a line, never assume it is safe to touch. Even momentary contact with power lines can cause injury or death.

Keep all cranes, scaffolding and high reach equipment away from power lines. Contact with a power line can cause serious burns or electrocution. Remember to work a safe distance from all power lines.

When performing construction activities, keep equipment at least 10 feet from power lines and 25 feet from transmission tower lines. Use a spotter to ensure compliance with the line clearance. If clearance cannot be obtained, contact Cuivre River Electric at (800) 392-3709, ext. 4391 to de-energize the lines.

Exercise precautions when using ladders or cleaning near a service drop.

Be cautious around guy wires that support utility poles. Be careful not to run over or into them with equipment or vehicles.

Keep yourself and others away from any downed power lines.

Contact Cuivre River Electric at (800) 392-3709, ext. 4390 if you see a downed power line.

  • Appliance Safety
  • Electrical Fire Safety
  • Electrical Outlet & Wiring Safety
  • Extension Cord Safety
  • Space Heater Safety

Keep appliances clean and well-maintained. A buildup of dust, trash or spider webs is an invitation for fire to start in the electrical system.

Unplug any appliance before working on it.

Keep electric appliances away from water.

Consider installing ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) in areas that are exposed to water.

Avoid adding extra plugs in attachments which could overload outlets or extension cords.

Examine electrical cords to make sure they aren’t frayed, damaged or placed under rugs or carpets.

Replace worn or damaged cords.

Do not touch any electrical appliance if you are standing in water.

Unplug irons before leaving them unattended.

Do not place anything on top of an appliance that uses its own cooling system (TV, computer, DVD player, game console). This can cause overheating of the appliance. It could even cause a fire.

Never use water on electrical fires, equipment or wires. Because water conducts electricity, dousing water on an electrical fire can cause the fire to intensify.

If an appliance is on fire, unplug it or cut the power at the control panel if possible.

If the fire is small, use baking soda or a multipurpose or dry chemical fire extinguisher.

Always have smoke alarms installed throughout your home. Check and change the batteries regularly.

Have fire extinguishers handy to put out small fires. Keep in an easy to access spot and away from exits.

Prepare and practice a home fire escape plan with your family.

Above all, keep your personal safety in mind during an appliance fire. Call 911 and get out of the building if the fire cannot be quickly extinguished.

Look for the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL®) mark on all electric products you use. This indicates the product has met strict electrical standards.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) should be installed anywhere water is present, including bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms, or where easy ground contact can be made, like in garages, basements, and outdoor areas. If you do not have GFCIs installed in these areas, contact a certified electrician.

Be familiar with fuses and breakers for the circuits in your home. If an electrical device blows a fuse, trips a breaker, releases sparks, sounds or smells like it’s burning, disconnect it immediately. Dispose of the appliance or have it repaired. If you are unsure about any equipment, contact a certified electrician.

Make sure that plugs fit nicely into outlets. Loose-fitting plugs or plugs that do not fit may overheat and cause a fire.

Do not allow any electrical wiring to be exposed - be sure that all switch and outlet covers fit over the wires.

Place safety covers in outlets that are not being used and keep cords tucked away so that children do not play with them.

Do not overload any electrical supply, such as an extension cord, power strip or outlet. When cords overheat, they can deteriorate and cause possible shock or fire.

When not in use, unplug all non-essential electrical appliances. You not only reduce a safety risk, but you will also save energy and money in the long run!

Extension cords are meant to be temporary. Avoid using extension cords over extended periods of time.

Do not connect several extension cords together. This can lead to overheating and sparking.

Use only three-wire extension cords for appliances with three-prong plugs. Never remove the third (round or U-shaped) prong, which is a safety feature designed to reduce the risk of shock and electrocution.

Do not put extension cords in places where they may get pinched, such as under doors or windows.

When using extension cords across doorways or heavy traffic areas, make sure they are taped to the floor securely so that you do not trip or fall on them.

Do not staple or nail extension cords. You might damage the insulation made to protect you from the current and potentially expose a wire that may cause sparking or shocks.

Know how much your extension cord can handle. If you plug in more than one high-wattage appliance into an extension cord, it may overheat. To find out the wattage on your appliance, read the manual or check the appliance for a label.

Never use an indoor extension cord outdoors - it could result in an electrical shock or hazard.

Use special, heavy-duty extension cords for high-wattage appliances, like air conditioners, portable electric heaters and freezers.

Make sure extension cords are connected to Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets, especially around water.

Never unplug an extension cord by pulling on the cord. Always unplug by firmly grasping the plug.

Use space heaters to provide supplemental heat only.

Select equipment that has the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL®) mark.

Keep anything that may burn at least 3 feet away from space heaters.

Do not use them to thaw pipes or dry clothing.

Be sure to turn off space heaters when leaving a room or going to sleep.

Use space heaters with an automatic shut-off feature and heating element guards.

Watch children and pets at all times when around a space heater. Even the slightest contact with a heating coil or element will cause a severe burn.

Check your space heater for frayed or broken wiring.

Avoid using extension cords with space heaters. Extension cords can easily overheat when used with a space heater.

Keep your space heater cord away from high-traffic areas in your home. Tripping on or knocking over the heater can cause an injury or even a fire.

  • Boat & Dockside Safety
  • Call Before You Dig Safety
  • Generator Safety
  • Landscaping Safety
  • Outdoor Workplace Safety

Don’t allow yourself or anyone else to swim near the dock. Avoid entering the water when launching or loading your boat. Docks or boats can leak electricity into the water causing water electrification.

Be aware of your surroundings and potential electrical hazards by checking the location of nearby power lines before boating, fishing, or swimming. Always maintain a distance of at least 10 feet between your boat and nearby power lines.

If you feel a tingle while swimming, the water may be electrified, get out of the water as soon as possible avoiding the use of metal objects such as ladders. Notify the owner of the property immediately, as this tingle is a sign that power to the facility should be turned off until a proper inspection has been completed.

Have your boat’s electrical system inspected and upgraded by a certified marine electrician regularly to be sure they meet your local and state NEC, NFPA, and ABYC safety code and standards.

Have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) installed on your boat and insist that your marina/dock owners have them installed on the dock. Test them once a month.

Use “UL- Marine Listed” portable GFCIs when using electricity near water. They will decrease the chances of shock or electrocution.

Consider having Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupters (ELCI) installed on boats to protect nearby swimmers from potential electricity leakage into water surrounding your boat.

Only use shore or marine power cords, plugs, receptacles, and extension cords that have been tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or ETL SEMKO (ETL). They are specifically designed to keep you safe when using them near water.

The current building trend is to bury utilities underground. Therefore, you must be cautious when digging on your property. Utilities, such as electric, gas, communications, water, and sewer, may be buried on your property. Contact with these lines can lead to a serious injury, or even death. As a result, Missouri has a law in place, The Missouri Underground Facility Safety and Damage Prevention statute (RSMo Chapter 319), that requires all persons planning on digging to contact the Missouri One Call System at (800) 344-7483 or 811. The call must be at least 48 hours prior to digging.

Missouri One Call will then contact the utility companies, who will then go out and mark the underground utilities. After it is determined that markings are required, the locate request will be dispatched to a field locator who will locate and mark the excavation site with paint, stakes, or flags. Members mark their facilities according to specific guidelines and color codes.

Upon agreement of the excavator and the facility owner, location may be provided by alternative means such as an on-site meeting or other conference.

Either party may request an on-site meeting to clarify markings, which must occur within 2 working days of the request for this meeting.

Hire a licensed electrician to connect the generator to your house wiring using a transfer switch to prevent your generator from back-feeding utility lines and causing possible damage to your generator when utility power is restored.

Thoroughly read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid dangerous shortcuts and ensure the safe operation of your generator.

Set it up outside, away from all open windows, including neighbors’ windows, to prevent deadly exhaust from entering a home or business.

Use a heavy-duty extension cord rated for outdoor use to keep the generator safely outdoors. If the appliance has a three-prong plug, always use a three-prong extension cord.

Consider using a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm to be alerted if carbon monoxide levels become dangerous.

Connect appliances directly to it.

Do not wire your generator directly to your breaker or fuse box, because the power you generate may flow back into power lines and cause severe injuries, or even kill a neighbor or utility crew working to restore power.

Turn off all connected appliances before starting your generator.

Turn connected appliances on one at a time, never exceeding the generator’s rated wattage.

Don't touch a generator if you are wet or are standing in water or on damp ground.

Never refuel a hot generator or one that is running – hot engine parts or exhaust can ignite gasoline.

Ensure you have plenty of gas for operation stored safely in gas containers.

Don’t leave a running generator unattended; turn it off at night and when away from home.

Never prune trees near electric lines. Contact Cuivre River Electric at (800) 392-3709, ext. 4398 first to inspect the trees.

Inspect the trees on your property annually for hazards. For expert advice on tree health or hazards, consult an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist.

You can disrupt utility service - and even put your life in danger - just by failing to have the locations of natural gas, electric and other underground utility lines clearly marked before you plant that new tree, set that fence post, or build that deck. Contact Missouri One Call System at 811 before you dig - it’s the law!

Be aware of and never strike undergrounding (underground power lines and equipment) when doing landscaping and lawn work.

Always assume power lines are live. This applies to power lines on utility poles as well as those near homes and buildings. Even though you may notice a covering on a line, never assume it is safe to touch. Even momentary contact with power lines can cause injury or death.

Keep all cranes, scaffolding and high reach equipment away from power lines. Contact with a power line can cause serious burns or electrocution. Remember to work a safe distance from all power lines.

When performing construction activities, keep equipment at least 10 feet from power lines and 25 feet from transmission tower lines. Use a spotter to ensure compliance with the line clearance. If clearance cannot be obtained, contact Cuivre River Electric at (800) 392-3709, ext. 4391 to de-energize the lines.

Exercise precautions when using ladders or cleaning near a service drop.

Be cautious around guy wires that support utility poles. Be careful not to run over or into them with equipment or vehicles.

Keep yourself and others away from any downed power lines.

Contact Cuivre River Electric at (800) 392-3709, ext. 4390 if you see a downed power line.


Knowing What To Do


Knowing what to do in an electrical emergency can mean the difference between life and death. At Cuivre River Electric Cooperative we’ve become so accustomed to how electricity works for us every day that we often take it for granted.


Each year in the United States, hundreds of people are killed and more than 10,000 people are injured from electricity incidents in the home. At work, electricity causes more than 300 deaths each year. Most electrical injuries can be avoided by taking the time to learn some safety skills.


Other safety tips specific to the workplace are offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. OSHA’s electrical standards address the government’s concern that electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard, exposing employees to such dangers as electric shock, electrocution, fires and explosions.


Related Safety Links


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an independent federal regulatory agency that was created in 1972 by Congress in the Consumer Product Safety Act. In that law, Congress directed the Commission to "protect the public against unreasonable risks of injuries and deaths associated with consumer products." The CPSC has jurisdiction over about 15,000 types of consumer products, from automatic-drip coffee makers to toys to lawn mowers.


The mission of the National Safety Council is to educate and influence society to adopt safety, health and environmental policies, practices and procedures that prevent and mitigate human suffering and economic losses arising from preventable causes.


The mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to save lives, prevent injuries and protect the health of America’s workers. To accomplish this, federal and state governments must work in partnership with the more than 100 million working men and women and their six and a half million employers who are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.


UL is the leading third-party certification organization in the United States and the largest in North America. As a not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization, UL has been evaluating products in the interest of public safety since 1894.