Anne Arundel Co. officials warn about portable generators

SEVERNA PARK, Md. (WMAR) - Anne Arundel County had a lot of storm damage but only one fire attributed to the storm. That's because a home owner in the 400 block of Retford Drive in Severna Park used his portable generator to "back feed" electricity throughout his home.

"Back feeding is a common but a dangerous practice where somebody uses a cord to attach to a generator and they back feed through an outlet to the house and that way they can power the whole house with a portable generator without using a lot of extension cords," said Captain Russ Davies from the Anne Arundel County Police Department. 

Luckily the two adults and four children made it out unharmed. Fire officials say the cord connecting the generator to the house caused the fire. At first it may sound like a workable plan, but there is nothing to stop the electricity from leaving your home unless you have a transfer switch on your home's breaker box. The transfer switch stops the electricity from leaving your home.

"It's a dangerous practice because if you don't throw the main breaker switch it can electrify the lines going outside the house and it's dangerous for the linemen," said Captain Davies. 

Besides linemen working on a line they expect to be free of power. When the electricity does come back on, there could be a problem as well.

"Now you got your power coming back through your main electrical box and your generator running," added Captain Davies.

Most permanent home generators have a transfer switch that automatically engages when the power goes out and the generator starts.

 As these people found out back feeding your house can be dangerous. There is only one way fire officials recommend you do this. If you're going to use a manual transfer switch, it's best to have a professional electrician come out and install that switch. That way you know it's right and it's done up to code.

Tara Glick lives in the community and has some good advice for the next storm.

"Maybe just double checking, maybe even calling the fire department to check your resources first before doing something," said Glick. 

Many electricians say there is a reason some call the cord used to back feed your house from a generator a suicide cord.

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