In the wake of the recent hurricanes, many people were left without power for days or even weeks. Many rely on portable generators to supply power in a crisis. While these machines are designed to help save lives by providing electricity to keep food cold and homes comfortable, they can be deadly if used improperly.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges the public to take the time now, before there is an emergency, to familiarize themselves with how to safely operate a portable generator. The danger lies in the emission of carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless and colorless gas that may build up in an enclosed space and lead to death.
The CPSC offers these tips for the safe operation of portable generators:
- Always operate a portable generator outside the home. The CPSC notes that one portable generator can produce as much CO as hundreds of mid-size cars.
- Even when the generator is located outside, be aware of any open doors, windows or vents that may allow carbon monoxide to creep into the house or building. The CPSC recommends keeping portable generators at a safe distance of 20 feet from the house.
- Consider installing a CO alarm in your house. Because CO is odorless and colorless, it is likely that you will not notice the buildup of the deadly gas until it is too late. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness.
The CPSC provides more information and materials about portable generators, carbon monoxide and alarms on its website in its Carbon Monoxide Information Center.