Baton Rouge – Because of the continual threat of tropical storms and hurricanes, many Louisianaresidents purchase individual, gas-powered generators to provide power to their homes in the event of an outage. However, every year, many die or are hospitalized because of improper and unsafe usage of generators.
In the past week alone, the Department of Health has been alerted to several cases of carbon monoxide poisoning due to generators, and urges residents to use them safely.
· Never use your generator indoors. Portable generators should never be used indoors. This includes use inside a garage, carport, basement, crawl space or other enclosed or partially-enclosed area, even those with ventilation. Gas-powered generators produce an exhaust of carbon monoxide. This potentially fatal gas is odorless and colorless, and inhalation can rapidly lead to full incapacitation or death. Opening windows or doors or using fans will not prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide. If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY – DO NOT DELAY. Because you may have to open windows to get fresh air while the power is out, be sure to place the generator away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
· Use a Carbon Monoxide alarm. It is a good idea to install a battery-operated alarm or a plug-in alarm with a battery back-up in your home. If carbon monoxide gas from the generator enters your home and poses a health risk, the alarm will sound to warn you. Test the battery frequently and replace when needed.
· Avoid Electrocution. To avoid electrocution, keep the generator dry and do not use in rain or wet conditions. To protect the generator from moisture, operate it on a dry surface under a canopy-like structure, such as a tarp held up on poles. Always ensure that your hands are dry before touching a generator.
· Turn off the generator and let cool before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite. Fuel for generators should be stored in an approved safety can. Use the type of fuel recommended in the instructions or on the label on the generator. Local laws may restrict the amount of fuel you may store, or the storage location. Ask your local fire department for additional information about local regulations. Fuel should be stored outside of living areas in a locked shed or other protected area. Do not store it near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage. If the fuel is spilled or the container is not properly sealed, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground or can be ignited by the appliance’s pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.
· Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy duty, outdoor extension cord.The extension cord should be rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the cord has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “backfeeding.” This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household protection devices.
Proper care and safety should always be practiced when using a generator. If you have questions about the operation of your generator, you should consult your owner’s manual or call the manufacturer. If you think someone has been exposed to carbon monoxide, get the person into fresh air and call your physician or health care provider. If someone has been electrocuted, call 911 for emergency care instructions.