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Virginia Department of Emergency Management Urges Generator and Portable Heater Safety During Ice Storm Power Outages

This update was published by Communications
Published: February 16, 2021

RICHMOND—The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) is urging residents to take special precautions while using portable generators and heaters. Many across the commonwealth have experienced power outages due to the ice storm over the weekend and with more ice and wintry weather forecasted over the next few days it is important to have safety as a top priority. Over the past several days, there has been numerous house fires and carbon monoxide related illnesses reported throughout the state due to portable generators and heaters.

VDEM would like to share these safety tips for residents as they use portable generators or heaters.


·       Generators should be used in well ventilated locations outside at least 20 feet away from all doors, windows, and vent openings. Measure the 20-foot distance from the generator exhaust system to the building.

·       Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.

·       Place generators so that exhaust fumes can’t enter the home through windows, doors or other openings in the building. The exhaust must be directed away from the building.

·       Make sure to install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for correct placement and mounting height.

·       Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it is hot.


·       Choose a heater with the seal of a qualified testing laboratory.

·       Keep the heater at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including people.

·       Choose a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection.

·       Place the heater on a solid, flat surface.

·       Make sure your heater has an auto shut-off to turn the heater off if it tips over.

·       Keep space heaters out of the way of foot traffic. Never block an exit.

·       Keep children away from the space heater.

·       Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet. Never use an extension cord.

·       Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed.


VDEM works with local government, state and federal agencies and voluntary organizations to provide resources and expertise through the five mission areas of emergency management: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery. To learn more about ways VDEM is working to improve disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, visit 

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