You’re probably taking extra steps to stay warm next week. How do you stay safe?
Published 8:52 pm Friday, January 12, 2024
As winter storms impact the Deep South next week, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging consumers to take steps to protect themselves from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fires.
Loss of Power—Using a Generator Safely
Consumers need to be especially careful when storms knock out electrical power. CO poisoning from gasoline-powered portable generators can kill in minutes. CO is called the invisible killer because it is colorless and odorless. CO poisoning from portable generators can happen so quickly that exposed persons may become unconscious before recognizing the symptoms of nausea, dizziness or weakness.
An average of nearly 100 consumers die in the U.S. each year from CO poisoning from portable generators, according to CPSC’s latest report on Non-Fire Carbon Monoxide Deaths Associated with the Use of Consumer Products. An earlier CPSC report shows that from 2011 through 2021, where race was known, non-Hispanic Black or African Americans accounted for 23 percent of generator-related CO deaths, which is much higher than their share in the U.S. population.
In the case of a power outage, follow these important life-saving tips:
- NEVER operate a portable generator inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or shed. Opening doors or windows will not provide enough ventilation to prevent the buildup of lethal levels of CO.
- Operate portable generators outside only, at least 20 feet away from the house, and direct the generator’s exhaust away from the home and any other buildings that someone could enter, while keeping windows and other openings closed in the path of the generator’s exhaust. Do not operate a generator on an outside porch or in a carport. They are too close to the home.
- Check that portable generators have been maintained properly, and read and follow the labels, instructions, and warnings on the generator and in the owner’s manual.
- Look for portable generators that have a CO shut-off safety feature, which is designed to shut the generator off automatically when high levels of CO are present around the generator. These models may be advertised as certified to the latest safety standards for portable generators–PGMA G300-2018 and UL 2201–which are estimated to reduce deaths from CO poisoning by 87% and 100%, respectively. UL 2201 certified models have reduced CO emissions in addition to the CO shut-off feature.
Check CO and Smoke Alarms
- Working smoke and CO alarms save lives! Install battery-operated CO alarms or CO alarms with battery backup on each level and outside separate sleeping areas at home. Interconnected CO alarms are best; when one sounds, they all sound.
- Make sure smoke alarms are installed on every level and inside each bedroom at home.
- Test CO and smoke alarms monthly to make sure they are working properly, and replace batteries, if needed. Never ignore an alarm when it sounds. Get outside immediately. Then call 911.
- Clear snow away from the outside vents for fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces so that dangerous carbon monoxide does not build up in the house.
Dangers with Portable Heaters
- Keep all sides of the portable heater at least 3 feet from beds, clothes, curtains, papers, sofas and other items that can catch fire.
- Place the heater on a stable, level surface, located where it will not be knocked over.
- NEVER leave running unattended in a confined space to reduce hyperthermia hazards.
- When using electric portable heaters, ALWAYS use a wall outlet; NEVER a power strip and NEVER run the heater’s cord under rugs or carpeting.
Dangers with Charcoal and Candles
- Never use charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal in an enclosed space can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide. Do not cook on a charcoal grill in a garage, even with the garage door open.
- Use caution when burning candles. Use flashlights or battery-operated candles instead. If using candles, do not burn them on or near anything that can catch fire. Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish candles when leaving the room and before sleeping.
Dangers with Gas Leaks:
- If you smell or hear gas leaking, leave your home immediately and contact local gas authorities from outside the home. Do not operate any electronics, such as lights or phones, before leaving.
If Your Home Floods—Dangers with Wet Appliances
- Look for signs that your appliances have gotten wet. Do not touch wet appliances that are still plugged into an electrical source.
- Before using your appliances, have a professional or your gas or electric company evaluate your home and replace all gas control valves, electrical wiring, circuit breakers, and fuses that have been under water.