Camping and RV Generator Safety Tips

Operating your Camping & RV Generator should be your number one priority—even if you only use your RV Generator while you’re camping.

Becoming acquainted with portable generator safety tips can help you avoid accidents and injuries. The more you practice safe operation; the faster these safety guidelines will become second nature.

In this guide, we’ll explore generator safety tips every RV operator needs to know before embarking on their next adventure. We’ll start by outlining general safety risks. These list eleven electrical safety tips that will help protect you and your fellow campers and briefly explain what to do in case of an emergency.


Understanding Generator Safety Risks
Generally speaking, portable generators are safe tools when used appropriately. But they still pose safety risks—fire, electrocution and carbon monoxide poisoning are three of the most important risks to avoid while you operate your generator.


Fire
Portable generators rely upon internal combustion technology—so they’re flammable if handled improperly.

As you operate your generator, be mindful of how you would prepare (and avoid causing!) a wildfire . Here are three general safety rules that can reduce the likelihood of starting a fire:

1. Always cool down your generator before handling it
2. Store fuel and other fire hazards safely and appropriately
3. Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when needed
4. Always operate the generator in a well-ventilated area and at least 5 ft on all sides from any flammable items

Staying vigilant against fires can keep you, fellow campers, your equipment, and the environment safe from fire damage.


Electrocution
Portable electric generators use an internal combustion engine to produce an electric current that can power your appliances and devices. Since they generate electricity, users must be mindful of potential electrocution risks.

Three general rules can prevent electric shock and other electricity-related accidents:

1. Always use appropriate equipment that’s in working order
2. Be mindful of outside factors that could lead to electrocution, like wet environments
3. Prevent static shock and ignitions from static electricity
4. Never use cords or electrical equipment with damaged or exposed wiring


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Between 2005 and 2017, carbon monoxide poisoning killed over 1,000 people in the US alone.

Proper ventilation is key to avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning and carbon monoxide-related fires, both of which can be deadly or cause serious injury:

● Carbon monoxide is a noxious gas that can cause fatigue, reduced brain function, and asphyxiation.

● Carbon monoxide is highly flammable and can ignite with just a small exposure to heat energy—like residual flame from cigarette ash, static electricity, or handheld lighters.

Since portable electric generators can release carbon monoxide as a byproduct of internal combustion, carbon monoxide exposure prevention is crucial to safe generator operation. Carbon Monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, highly toxic gas, so you may want to invest in a carbon monoxide alarm.


11 Safety Tips for Generator Users
The following eleven tips will help you and your fellow campers stay safe as you operate your portable generator while camping.


#1 Use a Transfer Switch
A transfer switch is a critical tool in generator operations for two reasons:

1. It allows you to power appliances that don’t use standard plugs—like HVAC systems, electric water heaters, and washing machines—with your portable electric generator without using an extension cord.

2. It controls the current moving between the generator and your RV’s circuit breaker, terminating the connection if you start to overload your generator, which can prevent electrical fires.

Using a transfer switch is significantly safer (and simpler) than using multiple extension cords to connect your generator to your RV’s appliances.


#2 Use the Correct Cables
To prevent electrical fires or electrocution, you must:

● Use the correct cables for each device you’re powering
● Make sure every cord and wiring is in safe, working condition

You can ensure your safety by:

● Using power cables supplied by your RV or appliance manufacturer(s), which will always be appropriately rated for your device

● Make sure that all extension cords used are rated high enough for the devices you’re connecting to your generator

● Checking your cords for punctures, frays, and unraveling before plugging them into your generator


#3 Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) When Needed
When appropriate (and when your appliances’ manufacturer-supplied cables include them), use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, or GFCIs.

GFCIs can prevent electric shock and fires (especially in wet environments). When a GFCI detects an electrical current outside of a normal path, it immediately shuts off the power supply to the device.

You can purchase extension cords and other cables with GFCIs from hardware stores.


#4 Keep Your Generator Dry
While a GFCI can protect you, your appliances, and your generator during unexpected water exposures (like rainy conditions), it’s still crucial to keep your generator dry and only operate it in dry conditions.

Never touch your generator, refuel it, or turn it on if you’re wet or standing in water. Wondering if you can run a generator in the rain? Protect your generator with a canopy suspended above it to allow for adequate ventilation—if you predict it will rain while your generator is running.


#5 Never Use a Generator Indoors or In an Enclosed Space
Always operate your generator outdoors to prevent carbon monoxide-related accidents (like fires and poisoning). Remember a few crucial ventilation considerations when choosing a place to run your generator:

● Running a generator indoors can trap carbon monoxide inside, which can cause poisoning or accidental ignition.

● Even if the doors or windows are open, do not run your generator inside your RV, your home, or your garage. These limited ventilation environments will not adequately protect you from carbon monoxide buildup.

● Exhaust fumes could move into nearby enclosed spaces and collect there, exposing you and fellow campers to asphyxiation or fire risks.


#6 Make Sure the Generator Has Adequate Ventilation Space
To expand upon the last point above, you should always ensure that your generator has adequate ventilation space to prevent carbon monoxide exposure and buildup in confined spaces.

Generator experts recommend following a general rule for ventilation: always allow at least 5 ft of clear, unobstructed space on all sides and on top of your generator.


#7 Cool Down Your Generator
Before handling your generator—moving it, manipulating it, or refueling—make sure to let your generator cool down completely after turning it off. Proper cool-down practices both:

● Prevent skin burns during handling
● Reduce the likelihood of accidental fires during refueling

Generator fuels pose a significant risk of ignition. They’re used in internal combustion engines (from cars to lawn equipment) because they take very little energy to ignite, so it’s crucial that your generator is completely cool before adding more fuel.


#8 Use Approved Fuel Containers
As recently as 2020, federal legislation has changed regarding safe fuel container design. When storing or transporting fuel for your generator, you should always use gas cans that are:

● Equipped with flame arrester devices, or small discs that disrupt open flames if the fuel inside of a gas can ignites

● Appropriately labeled with both the type of fuel contained and the date the can was filled

● Made from corrosion-resistant metals or high-density polyethylene, a plastic material that can withstand degradation for longer than traditional plastics


#9 Store Extra Fuel Safely
You'll likely pack extra fuel when you take your generator on a camping trip. But you should take as much care in choosing a fuel storage location as you would a generator operation location.

You should store your extra gas cans a safe distance away from both your generator and other heat sources on your campsite, like:

● Fire pits
● Gas or charcoal grills
● Electric or gas camp stoves

In addition, store extra fuel (and position your generator) away from any location you’ll use to smoke cigarettes or light handheld lighters.


#10 Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
When manipulating and running your generator, use personal protective equipment (PPE) when appropriate to prevent injuries.

Depending on the layout of your campsite and your available space, consider using:

● Ear protection like earmuffs or foam earplugs if you’ll be standing near a running generator for a prolonged period

● Eye protection like safety glasses, prescription eyeglasses, or sunglasses while you manipulate your generator, which can protect your eyes in the event of an explosion or ignition

● Heat-resistant gloves to protect your skin

Gloves serve a dual purpose:

1. They protect your skin from fuel spills and splashes
2. They prevent burns if you need to manipulate your generator while it’s still cooling down


#11 Follow a Generator Maintenance Checklist
Preventative maintenance is part and parcel of generator ownership—or safe operation of any combustion-powered vehicle. You should prioritize generator maintenance as highly as routine car maintenance, like oil and filter changes.

Compile a generator maintenance checklist that includes tasks like:

● Checking the oil and other fluid levels
● Cleaning the generator and the area around it
● Testing the ignition and cool down procedures, if you rarely use your generator while camping


Handling a Generator Emergency
If you or a fellow camper notice any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning (even if they’re mild), start a fire, or experience electrocution, immediate action is crucial:

1. Call 911 immediately after a fire starts or you receive an electric shock.

2. Visit an emergency room or call an ambulance if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.

3. Call a fire department to inspect the premises after a fire, electrocution, or carbon monoxide poisoning incident.

4. Alert nearby campers to any hazards or incidents that could endanger them.

5. Notify the park ranger or campground host on duty, who can help you contact local emergency services and prevent additional injuries.


DuroMax: Providing Generators for Home, Work, and Play Since 2003
The generator safety tips above can protect you, other campers, your generator, your RV, and the surrounding environment from potentially disastrous situations. Whether you’re camping in a remote locale, powering your hot water heater during a power outage, or using your generator on the job site, safety should always be your number one priority.

At DuroMax, we take safety seriously.

Our portable generators for RVs and recreation are equipped with automatic low oil shutdown switches, carbon monoxide sensor shutdown capabilities, and the highest quality materials to prevent accidents and keep you safe.

Our slate of generators, water pumps, pressure washers, and accessories can meet your needs on camping trips, at work, or at home—and our safety standards will always give you the peace of mind you deserve from a top-quality generator manufacturer.