In power outage, generator can be a lifesaver or a hazard

Utility companies in our area are getting ready to deal with widespread power outages.

Duke Energy has begun moving crews, including 250 workers coming up from Florida to be staged in Florence.

Utility workers say only a slight variation in temperature from one place to another can cause a big difference in whether power lines go down in your neighborhood or someone else's just a few miles down the road.

If your power does go out, you might want to use a portable generator as a back-up, but that can be dangerous if it's not used properly.

For one thing, you should never try to connect a portable generator to the existing wiring in your home.

"Make sure that your generators are used in an efficient way that it's just for me and my personal use and not back overall which will connect me to an electrical system," said Ashley Johnson with the Electrical Cooperatives of South Carolina. "Maybe a great idea would be just using a generator outside to run cords inside to your freezers or refrigerators or maybe stuff like that."

Utility officials say you should never run a generator in an enclosed area, because it will give off deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. A generator should always be used outside.

Don't try to fill the generator's fuel tank while it's running. Turn it off and let it cool down first.

Make sure your generator is properly grounded before you run it, and follow the manufacturer's instructions completely.