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How to buy generators

By Greg Friese

Firefighters use portable generators for extrication equipment, scene lighting, ventilation, communications, and even rehab functions. To learn more about portable generators and what features make sense I talked to career firefighter and blogger John Mitchell. When purchasing a portable generator John recommended we consider these things:

1. Dependability. Any piece of equipment on the fire truck, John explained, needs to be “firefighter proof” meaning it will work when needed and as it is intended to work. In departments of all sizes, generators may go weeks or months without being used. Starting and operations need to be dependable for all users and all conditions.

2. Ease of use. In severe environments with limited lighting and an immediate need for use, portable generators need to be “incredibly simple to start and use.” Look for a generator that requires minimal adjustments and steps before starting.

3. Portability. A generator should be light and compact enough that it can be “carried and moved around the fire ground by a single firefighter.” A large and heavy generator ties up two people on a single tool when personnel resources may be limited.

4. Weight and placement. Lifting injuries are a common and unfortunate hazard for emergency responders. Place the generator on a truck where minimal reaching or bending is required to lift and move it. If it is heavy enough to require a two-person lift make sure personnel are aware of the need for a team lift and follow that policy.

5. Integrated lighting. Some generators have integrated lighting features or after market modifications that add lights. LENTRY sells a generator unit with extendable legs and telescoping lights.

Finally, before purchasing a generator make sure it fits in cabinets available for storing it. Picking the right size generator is probably easier than modifying the fire truck. To connect with firefighter John Mitchell and read his blog, visit or connect with him on Twitter at @FireDaily.

Any other suggestions for purchasing generators? Anything we missed in the list above? Leave a comment below or email with your feedback.

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