CO Reminder Follows in Tropical Storm Fay's Wake

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning residents of Florida who have been pounded by heavy rains and power outages from Tropical Storm Fay to take special precautions. Portable gas generators, often used by consumers to restore power to their homes and businesses in the aftermath of a storm, produce high levels of deadly carbon monoxide (CO).

Generators should be used outdoors only, far from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors, CPSC said. "Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless poison gas. It is an invisible killer," said Nancy Nord, CPSC acting chairman. "While generators can come in handy after a storm, using one indoors can kill you and your family in minutes."

A Porter Novelli "Healthstyles" survey of more than 10,000 adults found dangerous misconceptions about generator safety. The surveys found that most respondents (62 percent) believe it is safe to run a generator in a garage as long as the garage door is open. Many (47 percent) also believe it is safe to run a generator in a basement as long as a window is open. But both scenarios have caused deaths. CPSC records show that there were nearly 100 generator-related deaths due to CO poisoning in 2005.

CPSC provides these important life-saving tips:

  • If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air right away. The CO from generators can readily lead to full incapacitation and death.
  • Keep generators dry and wait for the rain to pass before using a generator. Consumer-grade generators are not weatherproof and can pose the risk of electrocution and shock when used in wet conditions.
  • Do not connect the generator directly into your home's electrical system through a receptacle outlet--this is an extremely dangerous practice that poses a fire hazard and an electrocution hazard to utility workers and neighbors served by the same transformer.
  • If using a generator, plug individual appliances into heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cords and plug cords into the generator.
  • Check that the extension cords have a wire gauge adequate for the appliance loads and have all three prongs, including a grounding pin.
  • Keep charcoal grills outside. Never use them indoors. Burning charcoal in an enclosed space can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Check to make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms have batteries and are working.

Avoid Electrical and Gas Hazards

  • Look for signs that your appliances have gotten wet. Discard electrical or gas appliances that have been wet because they pose electric shock and fire hazards.
  • Before using your appliances, have a professional or your gas or electric company evaluate your home and replace all gas control valves, circuit breakers, and fuses that have been under water.

Avoid Electrical and Gas Hazards

  • Young children and water don't mix. Watch children around buckets, tubs, and standing water in and around the home. Even small amounts of water can be a drowning hazard.

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