June 1 marks the start of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) wants to remind everyone to be informed, be prepared and be safe! “Powerful storms and devastating hurricanes can affect millions of Americans,” says CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle. “So remember, you have the power to prepare, arm yourself with safety, before and after the storm,” she added.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a normal Atlantic hurricane season but stresses that it only takes one hurricane to cause massive destruction and loss of life.
Consumers need to be especially careful during power outages, as the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fire increase. Now is the time to make sure:
- There are battery-operated CO alarms, or CO alarms with battery backup, installed in your home–outside separate sleeping areas, and on each floor of your home.
- CO and smoke alarms are working properly.
- Your generator has had proper maintenance, and you have the proper extension cords for connecting the items you need to power.
- You read the label on the generator and the owner’s manual, and follow the instructions.
Why is this important? Poisonous CO from portable generators can kill you and your family in minutes. CO is an invisible killer. It’s colorless and odorless. More than 400 people die each year in the United States from CO poisoning, about 70 of those deaths are related to portable generators.
After the Storm
The storm has hit and the power is out. Now what? Follow these life-saving tips:
Where to place your generator
- Operate portable generators outside only, away from doors and windows; and direct the generator’s exhaust away from the home and any other buildings that someone could enter. The CDC recommends placing the portable generator at least 20 feet away from the house.
Where NOT to place your generator
- Never operate a portable generator inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace, shed, or on the porch. Opening doors or windows will not provide enough ventilation to prevent the buildup of lethal levels of CO.
What to do
- Never ignore a carbon monoxide alarm when it sounds.
- Get to fresh air immediately if you start to feel sick, weak or dizzy, and then call 911. CO poisoning from portable generators can happen so quickly that exposed persons may become unconscious instead of experiencing these symptoms.
Other hazards include:
– Never use charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal in an enclosed space can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide.
– Use caution when burning candles. If you must use candles, do not burn them on or near anything that can catch fire. Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish candles when you leave the room.
– Use flashlights instead.
– 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, electrical wiring, circuit breakers, and fuses that have been under water.
GAS LEAKS: IF YOU SMELL GAS, REPORT IT!
If you smell or hear gas, do not turn lights on or off, or use electrical equipment, including a phone.
Be informed, be ready and be safe!