This week’s storm knocked out power throughout Maine and struck the Midcoast the hardest. Many residents have plugged in their generators for electricity and are firing up chain saws to clear debris. Here are some tips from Maine Emergency Management Agency and Central Maine Power Company on using those tools safely and correctly.

Chain Saws

Maine Emergency Management Agency notes that following natural disasters, injuries can occur as people begin cleaning up and repairing property. These injuries are sometimes caused by the improper use of a chain saw, which can be especially dangerous.

Here are safety precautions OSHA and the Maine Department of Labor Safety Works Program offer to stay safe:

Before starting the saw:

• Do not smoke while fueling the chain saw, and use a funnel or flexible hose while fueling. Never attempt to fuel a hot or running chain saw. Use an approved container for transporting fuel to the saw

• Wear non-slip gloves, leg, eye, face, hearing and head protective equipment

• Avoid loose-fitting clothing that could get caught in the chain saw, and wear nonslip safety shoes or boots

• Check the controls, chain tension and bolts and handles for proper adjustment

• Make sure the chain is sharp and the lubrication reservoir is full

• Start the saw on the ground, at least ten feet from the fueling area. Be sure the chain-brake is on during starting.

When sawing:

• Avoid working alone

• Watch for tree limbs and trunks under tension that could spring back with deadly force if cut and use extreme care to bring the object to the ground. Plan where the object will fall; ensure the fall area is free of hazards. Avoid felling an object into another one. Ensure you have a clear exit path

• Avoid cutting down trees on a windy day, as wind can cause unpredictable hazards

• Never cut a tree near or touching power lines. Clear dirt, debris, limbs and rocks from the path of the saw before cutting. Check the tree for nails, spikes or other metal before cutting. Never saw directly overhead

• Be sure your footing is secure before and during cutting and keep your hands on the saw handles while cutting

• Cut so the trunk or tree limbs will not bind against the saw.

• Do not saw with the tip of the chain saw in order to avoid kick-back

• Do not carry a running chain saw up a ladder. Use a rope to hoist it into the tree then start the chain saw


The Maine Emergency Management agency notes that while portable generators are useful when temporary power is needed, “they also can be hazardous.” The dangers range from the carbon monoxide they produce while running to electric shock or engine exhaust to fire and burns.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common of generator incidents reported. MEMA warns that if you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air immediately because the CO from generators can rapidly kill you. It is odorless and tasteless.

MEMA offers several tips from the Consumer Products Safety Commission on proper generator use:

Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

• Follow the instructions that come with your generator. Locate the unit outdoors and at least 15 feet away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors. Make sure the generator’s exhaust is directed away from doors, windows, and vents.

• Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’ instructions. CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards. Test batteries monthly.

• Protect the generator from moisture to help avoid the shock/electrocution hazard — such as under an open, canopy-like structure on a dry surface where water cannot reach it or puddle or drain under it. Dry your hands, if wet, before touching the generator.

• Connect appliances to the generator using heavy-duty extension cords that are specifically designed for outdoor use. Make sure the wattage rating for each cord exceeds the total wattage of all appliances connected to it. Check that the entire length of each cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs. Protect the cord from getting pinched or crushed if it passes through a window or doorway.

Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “back feeding.” This presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.

• Never store fuel for your generator in the home. Fuel and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly-labeled, non-glass safety containers. Do not store them near a fuel burning appliance.

• Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.

Additional tips from Central Maine Power Co.:

• Generators must be kept dry and properly grounded. Don’t touch a generator if you are wet or are standing in water or on damp ground.

• After losing power, turn off main breaker or pull main fuse block.

• Do not overload a generator with too many appliances.

• Keep an approved, fully charged fire extinguisher nearby. Don’t smoke, use open flames, or operate electrical switches while handling fuel.

• Protect vital household circuits with ground fault interrupters — devices built into wall outlets that trip out if current surges. If your home doesn’t already have GFIs, an electrical contractor can install them at moderate cost.

• Inspect and maintain your generator regularly.

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