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I’m sure you’ve heard it time and time again. During every winter weather storm, elected officials, first responders, and news anchors echo the same sentiment, “Don’t bring your gas-powered generators inside.” Running a gas powered generator in your home emits the same type of deadly fumes as leaving your car running in a closed garage. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, gas and diesel-powered generators cause the largest number of unintentional, non-fire-carbon monoxide deaths in the United States.

For some, the lack of electricity and heat during a power outage can be life-threatening. So how do you safely operate a generator?

Since generators may be powered differently, have different capabilities and have contrasting life expectancies, reading the instruction manual will explain how to operate your specific generator. Finding a safe place to store your generator should be your next line of business. It should be somewhere outside of your home and away from any doors, vents or windows. You should never store an active generator in your garage, mudroom, porch or basement.

In addition, make sure your carbon monoxide detector is on and working to ensure you and your family are safe from any fumes that could potentially find their way into your home from a generator. Possible symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include: headache, dizziness, vomiting, confusion, chest pain and/or weakness. If you or a family member show any of these symptoms, get fresh air, turn off your generator and call 911 immediately.

Buying and then preparing a plan for operating your generator before a winter storm emergency strikes can give you peace of mind while everyone else is fighting over the last one at the nearby big-box store.