Generators and hurricanes: A potentially deadly combination

Photo provided by MGN/staff
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 4:00pm

Not one, not ten, not even 50 people die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning due to the use of generators. On average, 81 people die each year according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Louisiana State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning warns you against placing generators inside closed areas, especially when the power goes out during or after a hurricane.

“In past storms, we’ve experienced injuries and deaths in our state, as it relates to people using generators for long periods of time,” Browning told us in a live interview during Hurricane Isaac coverage. “We’ve found that when generators are placed near doors or windows or inside buildings, carbon monoxide – a silent, odorless killer - accumulates inside these buildings and makes people unconscious and could eventually kill these people.” 

To prevent exhaust fumes from entering your home, the Louisiana State Fire Department recommends placing your generator at least 20 feet away from open doors and windows and in a well-ventilated area outside. Installing battery operated smoke/carbon monoxide alarms can increase your safety precautions and could even save your life. 

On top of the hazard of carbon monoxide, fires can spark from the use of generators, especially when refueling them. 

“People try and refuel these generators while they are still hot. Because they are going to run for an extended period of time, you want to let the generator cool down before you refuel it,” he said. 

In addition, keep your generator’s backup fuel stored in a separate area and have a fire extinguisher close-by, if an emergency does occur while refueling it. 

“We know folks are going to be using generators and they need to be using them safely.” Browning expressed. 

GENERATOR SAFETY TIPS:

  • Never use a generator indoors or in an attached garage or carport, even if the garage door is open.
  • Place the generator at least 20 feet away from a building.
  • Put the generator outside and away from open doors, windows, and vents.
  • Turn off generator and let it cool down before refueling it.
  • Never refuel the generator while it is still running.
  • Read product directions for other safety tips.
  • Install a battery-operated CO alarm in your home and check the batteries every six-months.
  • Chain the generator to a tree or other fixed object to prevent theft.
  • Store backup fuel in containers outside of living areas.

Symptoms of CO poisoning:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death
  • Get out of the house and seek medical help immediately if you or a family member has these symptoms. 

For more fire information, check the Fire Marshal’s website here

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