Hurricane Season 2014: How To Survive Power Outages With A Generator

All generators operate differently, but these guidelines should work with most.

  • Check fuel level. If you must add fuel, be sure generator is cooled down. Do not overfill.
  • Check the oil level and check the filter.
  • Check voltage selector to make sure it matches the type of application you are connecting to. (CHOOSE BETWEEN ‘120-VOLTS AND ‘120-VOLT/240’.)
  • Move generator outside to well-ventilated area. Place on a firm, level surface.
  • Connect a heavy duty, outdoor-rated power cord to generator, or connect appliances directly to generator.
  • Turn generator’s circuit breaker off.
  • Turn the power switch to the on position then pull the cord.
  • Let generator warm up before turning the circuit breaker back on.

Some generators operate on unleaded gasoline. Others use diesel fuel.

  • Five gallons of gas will power a 5,600-watt generator for about eight hours.
  • One gallon of gas will power a 3,000-watt generator for about 3 1/2 hours.

You will also need multi-gallon, vented containers for storing gasoline (fill before storm comes), engine oil, an outdoor-rated extension cord and a carbon monoxide detector.


  • Never overfill with gas.
  • Do not use stale or contaminated gas.
  • Avoid getting dirt or water on the generator.
  • Turn fuel valve off when transporting or storing generator. This keeps fuel from diluting engine oil and damaging engine.
  • When storing a generator for more than two months, drain fuel and/or add fuel conditioner to top it off, following directions on the label.
  • Change oil regularly, according to your model’s manual.
  • Change filter regularly, according to your model’s manual.

The risks (if you don’t do it right): carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution, fire and explosion.

  • Never use wet hands to operate the generator.
  • Never let water come in contact with the generator.
  • Never run your generator in a garage because the carbon monoxide exhaust is toxic. Find a well-vented space, but be sure the generator isn’t positioned outside an open window or any intake vent. Use a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector.
  • Always turn the engine off before refueling and let the generator cool.
  • Do not spill fuel. It can ignite.
  • Store fuel and generator in a ventilated area and away from natural gas water heaters. Vapors can escape from closed cans and tanks, then travel to the pilot light and ignite.
  • Never feed power from a portable generator into a wall outlet. This can kill linemen working to restore power. It also can damage your generator.
  • Do not use power cords that are frayed. This can cause a fire. Be sure all prongs are intact and that the cord is outdoor-rated. The cord’s wattage or amps must not be smaller than the sum of the connected appliance loads.
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