EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was submitted by Rick Berry, the Electrical Safety Officer in the Greater Victoria area, in Vancouver, Canada.
Part of our inspection duties include assisting the fire departments in determining fire causation when the suspected cause might be electrical.
To provide some background, our geographic area is often subject to wind storms coming in off of the Pacific Ocean, frequently called "The Pineapple Express" when a particularly heavy, wet, rainy storm comes up from Hawaii.
During one season, we had a particularly bad storm of longer duration and of stronger winds than normal. This was followed by several weeks of heavy rain that soaked the ground. The strong winds combined with the soaked ground caused a huge number of trees to fall throughout the area, taking out the overhead power lines with them.
The local Utility was swamped with trouble calls and seconded all the private utility line contractors to assist them, but it still took time (some were out as long as 6 days!). Unfortunately, some people decided that they couldn't wait for the power to come back on and they took matters into their own hands, so to speak.
The story I'd like to share takes place in a rural area at a house that was already equipped with a stand-by generator, wired correctly, with an approved transfer switch. However, the generator was sized for the minimum of loads (fridge, well, septic, freezer). The owner was having his staff Christmas party at his house and needed "a bit more power" for the big screen TV, karaoke machine, sound system, and flashing lights!
Being that he was somewhat of a self-proclaimed handy guy, he went to one of the local tool rental companies and rented out their last generator. After getting it home, he now had to hook it up to get the party started.
He looked at the generator output receptacle and realized that he had a cable in his shop with the same end on it. Hey, not only did he have a cord with the right end, but his electric arc welder outlet in the garage matched it too!
His lucky day? NOT!