As the record nor’easter continues to churn through Hampton Roads Thursday, residents who lose electricity should exercise care when using generators.
Most deaths associated with generators come from carbon monoxide (CO), the noxious gas that comes from generator use.
Generators can produce large – and potentially fatal – amounts of CO within minutes. CO cannot be smelled, seen or tasted.
The danger is not a trivial one; almost 160,000 customers in southeastern Virginia were without power as of Thursday night, The Virginian-Pilot reported. If previous history is any guide, some of those customers will not have service restored for days. Many of those customers will use a portable generator in the mean time.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Web site has these suggestions on how to avoid CO poisoning:
• “Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.”
• “Follow the instructions that come with your generator. Locate the unit outdoors and far from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors.”
• “Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards. Test batteries monthly.”
Yesterday, I wrote about driving safety in flood conditions. Tomorrow, I will discuss the hazards encountered during storm cleanup.
About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.