The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an American scientific agency that focuses on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere, said that during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season the region would likely experience “an above normal hurricane season” that could bring more storms – from 14 to 19 – than previously expected.

If you are in the path of destruction, you may want to consider a portable generator. Portable generators provide backup electricity during a power outage, keeping your home lit and heated when necessary. It also keeps your business running, helping prevent severe losses due to power interruption. And even if you don’t live in a hurricane-prone area, other types of storms and system failures can still leave you in the dark if you don’t have a generator.

Convinced? Keep these three tips in mind while shopping for one to help ensure that what you buy is safe for use:

  • Before you go, check your home’s peak and running wattage load to get suggestions for the types of generators suitable for your intended use. Honda and Northern Tool are among the manufacturers that have wattage calculators available to help walk you through all the options.
  • Consider choosing a model with a removable console so that you can leave the generator outdoors while using the console to power your appliances indoors.
  • Consider a model that can be converted to run on propane or natural gas as it would provide a more continuous source of power than gasoline. You will need a conversion kit and help from an expert to install it.

While portable generators provide electricity to run home appliances, the most common dangers associated with them are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrical shock or electrocution and fire hazards. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that about 50 people die per year from carbon monoxide poisoning related to improper use of a generator.

To keep your family and home safe, let’s be mindful that prevention is better than cure and remember these five critical points:

  • Always operate generators in a well-ventilated outdoor area, away from all doors, windows and vent openings so the exhaust fumes do not make its way into your home. Generator exhaust contains deadly carbon monoxide (CO) which is colorless and odorless, hence there is no way of knowing its presence physically when it floats through your home unless you have a carbon monoxide alarm.
  • Keep the generator away from an attached garage, and don’t operate a generator inside a garage, even with the door open. According to the CPSC study, CO poisoning deaths occurred the most inside non-basement living spaces, garages and basements.
  • Install CO alarms in the hallway outside bedrooms. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for correct placement and mounting height. Leave the house and call 911 if the alarm sounds.
  • Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it is running. Only use proper fuel containers and store containers outside of living areas and away from fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces or water heaters.
  • Keep the generator dry, use the right size cords and plug into the appropriate electricity outlet to prevent potential electrocution hazard. Plugging the generator into a home wall outlet or main panel is known as backfeeding and can create electrocution risks for neighbors or utility workers who use the same transformer, plus it puts your home circuit at risk as the surge bypasses built-in safety devices. Have a qualified electrician install a generator transfer connection for your generator.

To help protect you and your family, it is recommended that you purchase CARB-compliant and EPA-certified portable generators to help ensure that the mechanism is strictly tested and proven to be safe for operation within the specified usage guidelines. And for more information about home safety, UL senior regulatory engineer, Bruce E. Johnson suggests to look at the UL Public Education Resources site.