ORLANDO, Fla. – When it comes to hooking up your generator, failing to follow proper protocol can not only injure your family, it can be dangerous for utility workers, as well.
Jason Drayton, with the Orlando Utilities Commission, said when people plug generators directly into an outlet rather than a proper transfer switch, it can back feed power lines, causing a potentially deadly situation for linemen and first responders.
[STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE: How to safely use and store your generator]
“If it feeds back onto the line, that low voltage at your home actually becomes higher voltage down the line, and so it impacts responding crews, whether it be public service workers, law enforcement, and especially utility workers that are responding,” Drayton said.
He said that actually reenergizes the line, making any downed wires on the ground that were once de-energized become live.
Drayton explained that power goes into homes at a usable voltage of 120 volts, with the help of transformers.
"This is a transformer -- what you would typically see near a home. High voltage (goes) in and steps it down to a usable voltage at the home of 120 volts,” Drayton said. “The irony of this, is if you back feed a transformer from a generator, the 120 volts goes in and the transformer steps it up to a high voltage. In this case, 7,200 volts," he said.
That high of voltage is considered high-risk to workers and anyone else exposed to it, according to Drayton.
[QUIZ: How much do you know about carbon monoxide safety? | What to know about generator safety, carbon monoxide poisoning]
Even if power has been shut off on OUC’s end, it can still be dangerous if there is not a proper disconnect at your home.
Drayton said when hooking up your generator, be sure to use a proper transfer switch and shut off the main breaker at your home, which will protect you from causing damage to the appliances or your generator when OUC restores power.
For more tips on how to stay safe when using a generator, follow our step-by-step guide.