In the wake of disasters, people who lose electricity often turn to fuel-powered devices to cool or heat their homes or cook their food. While having a generator can be a great help while power is out, gas-powered generators need to be used safely in a well-ventilated outdoor setting at least 10 feet away from the house. Not in the house. Not in the garage.
During and after storms, when you are likely to have your windows and doors tightly closed to keep the rain and wind out, build up of carbon monoxide fumes indoors is more likely. In disaster situations, carbon monoxide poisonings usually occur from improperly operated generators. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning also can occur when gas stoves, lanterns, charcoal grills, gas ranges, gas dryers and hot water heaters, automobiles and heating systems are not used correctly.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas. Several household sources, such as gasoline-powered tools and generators, produce carbon monoxide. Anything that burns, including your gas oven, can produce carbon monoxide. The fumes are extremely hazardous and can cause sudden illness or death within minutes.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, drowsiness, severe headache, weakness, nausea, and confusion. If you experience any of these, get out of the house immediately and seek medical attention.
Keep yourself and your family safe by following these rules:
- Never use generators or other gasoline or charcoal-burning devices such as grills or heaters inside your home, in a garage, in an enclosed area or outside near an open window.
- Do not put portable generators on balconies or near doors, vents, or windows.
- Never use gas ranges or ovens to heat your home.
- Never run an automobile in an enclosed space, even in an open garage.
- Make sure all appliances are properly installed and maintained.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors, especially near bedrooms. You may also consider installing one near your furnace; while you might not be able to hear the alarm while you are in the house, you’ll know that CO levels are high around your furnace as you approach and can leave immediately.
Good indoor air quality is critical for good health. Be sure to do everything you can to keep your indoor air safe and healthy during (and after) a storm!