TRENTON, N.J. – With the recent flurry of storms throughout the state, residents should be prepared for the possibility of the loss of electric power, in some cases for extended periods of time.  New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III today reminded residents about potential dangers regarding the use of portable generators as a result of power outages and encouraged safety precautions during their operation.

“In these cases, there have been a number of tragedies from the use of portable generators, candles and people coming into contact with downed power lines,” said Commissioner Constable.  “It is very important that people heed these precautions to ensure they do not become a victim of a preventable accident.”    

State Fire Marshal William Kramer, Jr. warns that gasoline and diesel powered generators release a large amount of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas.

“Running generators within a basement, garage or any enclosed or partially enclosed structure will lead to a dangerous – and often fatal – accumulation of carbon monoxide,” said Kramer. “Because the gas is odorless and colorless, its’ effects are not recognized and people will either fall asleep or not wake up. When this happens, it is usually too late for them to survive.” 

The Division of Fire Safety recommends that generators only be used outdoors and well away from any structure.  In addition, generators should never be connected to a buildings electrical system unless done so by a licensed electrician as this can cause “back feeding” into the areas electrical grid re-energizing downed wires.

When electric power is out, many people turn to candles for light, which is dangerous. Candles are meant for effect and smell, not for lighting. They should never be left unattended, placed in areas where children or pets could knock them over, and or placed near combustible materials such as curtains.

It is not unusual during episodes of high wind for power lines to be blown down or taken down by falling trees. The Division of Fire Safety warns that every downed wire should be considered energized. People should stay away from them and contact their electricity provider.

“Even if you know that the downed line is not electric, it could be wrapped around and energized by a live wire. Stay away,” Kramer said.

The Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the State. The Division is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, as well as for implementing public education and firefighter training programs.

For more information, log on to http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dfs/ on the DCA website.