North Fork of the Blackfoot River

Generator Safety

Portable Generator

Standby electric generators can provide you with an extra sense of security in our unpredictable weather and occasional power outages. We understand a generator can be a convenient source of power around your home or business. We ask that for the safety of you and our personnel, all generators be installed and used safely.

To protect yourself and your family, read and follow the safety instructions provided by the manufacturer. Before purchasing a generator, please consider how you will use it. Knowing how your generator will be used will help determine the correct size and type of generator to purchase. Once you purchase your generator, you will need to know how and where to install it properly.

Please notify the MEC office at (406) 541-4433 or (800) 352-5200 if you have a generator installed on your premises. This will be noted on your account for the safety of our lineman in outage situations.

There are two main types of generators:  permanently installed, standby generators; and gasoline-powered, portable generators.

Portable Generators

Portable gas or diesel generators are designed to provide temporary power to electrical devices where electrical service is not available. They can be quite convenient to use in remote locations, such as camping sites or construction areas. Portable generators are not designed to provide enough electricity to power your whole home and are not designed to be connected to your home’s wiring system. Overloading a portable generator can cause damage the generator and connected devices by delivering lower than optimal voltages. Do not attempt to connect these devices to your electrical panel. NEVER operate a portable generator inside a building as carbon monoxide poisoning may occur.

Generator Safety Sheet Courtesy of NFPA (PDF)

Standby generator

Standby Generators

Standby generators are permanently installed devices that typically operate on natural gas or liquid propane. They are designed to supply on-site power to specified circuits through a home’s electrical wiring. These generators work in tandem with a manual or automatic transfer switch which is installed to disconnect the the home from the Cooperative’s electric grid. Automatic transfer switches automatically detect an interruption in power supplied by the Cooperative and subsequently transfers over electrical input to the generator.

Backfeeding — A Dangerous Condition

Automatic transfer switch

Adding a standby generator to the electrical system of a home, farm or business requires a suitable transfer switch to disconnect the electric loads from the Cooperative’s utility grid. This is a requirement of the National Electrical Code (see NEC Article 702-6) and all electric power suppliers, for two very good reasons: (1) it prevents the back flow of current into the utility’s lines during an outage, which could electrocute linemen working to restore power; and (2) it prevents damage to the generator when regular electric service has been restored, which can destroy the generator.

Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

When using a generator, be sure to locate the generator outside and away from any fresh air intakes for the building to prevent carbon monoxide entering the structure. Never operate a generator in an enclosed building, especially a building which is attached or part of the home. Make sure it is properly vented and the generator has enough air to operate properly.

Water and Generators

Do not operate a generator in standing water. Make sure your hands are dry, that you are standing on a dry surface, and the generator is properly grounded before you start it.

Generator Fuel

Make sure the generator fuel is stored properly, in approved containers, and out of reach of children. Do not refuel when a generator is hot or running.

Other Safety Reminders

  • Always check the unit thoroughly each season before you use it.
  • Never attempt to repair a generator, only a qualified serviceman should perform repairs.
  • Don’t remove or tamper with safety devices; they are there to protect you and your property.
  • Many engine parts get very hot during operation; severe burns may result if touched.
  • Keep children away from generators at all times.
  • Always properly disconnect from your utility service before starting your backup generator.