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PSC: Improper use of generators is dangerous

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 With a winter storm bearing down on Kentucky today, the Kentucky Public Service Commission is urging residents who lose power to exercise caution when using portable generators or clearing storm debris.

The National Weather Service is forecasting ice accumulations of more than half an inch in parts of Kentucky, making this the worst ice event since January 2009. Strong winds tonight are expected to put further strain on ice-coated trees and power lines.

The PSC is reminding Kentucky residents to stay away from all downed lines. Downed lines should be reported to the local utility company. If the lines are sparking, on fire or otherwise creating an emergency, call 911.

Customers who lose power should follow proper safety precautions if they use portable generators or heating devices, PSC Chairman David Armstrong said.

“Fortunately, this storm is forecast to be much less severe than in the one in 2009,” Armstrong said. “Nevertheless, it has the potential to cause some serious power outages.

“As we have learned from previous storms, improper use of portable generators can be extremely dangerous,” he said. “Many Kentuckians have lost their lives, and many others have been hospitalized, as the result of being poisoned by carbon monoxide emitted by portable generators that were not used correctly.”

To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning or fire hazards:

· Generators should only be operated outside in well-ventilated areas and never in a garage, basement or breezeway.

· Do not operate generators near windows, doors or in other areas where exhaust fumes could be drawn into a home or other occupied structure.

· Do not use charcoal grills, gas grills or other open-flame devices indoors for heating or cooking.

· Use only portable heaters certified for indoor use. They should be placed in well-ventilated areas and kept well away from combustible materials.

· To prevent fires, generators should never be refueled while they are running. Refuel only after the generator has been turned off and allowed to cool.

The PSC also is reminding electric customers who use a portable generator of electric safety guidelines that will protect them and those working to restore power. Keys to safe operation of generators include:

• Make sure a generator is properly sized for the load you will place on it. Remember that starting an electric motor, such as a refrigerator or air conditioner compressor, requires more electricity than the amount needed to keep it running. Do not overload your generator.

• Use only three-prong, grounded extension cords, properly rated for the load, to connect appliances to generators.

Customers who lose power should contact their utility company immediately. Most utilities in Kentucky have systems that use customer reports to help identify the location of the problem and determine what repairs are needed.

 “It is important that every customer call to report an outage,” Armstrong said. “But repeated calls simply tie up the utility’s phone system. Call at once, but call only once.”

Customers who lose power also should check electric connections and meters for damage. Damaged connections or meters must be repaired before power can be restored to a home or business.