Tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from generator use

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 10:58 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2022 at 11:15 PM EST
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Monday’s winter storm has come in gone, but thousands are still left out in the dark and cold without power. The longer it takes crews to restore power, the more drastic, and sometimes dangerous, measures people are willing to take to heat their homes.

In Orange County, sheriff’s deputies are investigating after an elderly couple, and a family pet were found dead inside their home with a generator in the garage. Now, emergency crews want to make sure homeowner are powering their homes safely.

“With this particular snowstorm, we have a lot of people who are out of power, and that causes a lot of big problems,” Henrico Fire’s Doug Reynolds said. “We have people who are getting more desperate trying to keep their house warm, so we see them going to alternative heating devices.”

Reynolds said it’s easy for that desperation to turn deadly, especially where carbon monoxide is concerned.

“Generators are certainly something we see big problems with because many people that have one have never used it before,” Reynolds said. “You always have to keep it outside; keep it away from your house because the gas fumes operating the generator will poison your house.”

Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can silently kill with enough concentration and exposure. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include fatigue, dizziness and nausea.

“People bring generators into the garages, under the house, in the Florida room, and all those areas are going to allow the carbon monoxide to come into your house,” Reynolds said. “It will just take you out, and you won’t even realize it’s in your house.”

If you are still without electricity and are trying to power your home with a generator, Reynolds says owning a carbon monoxide detector is essential. If you don’t have a detector, Reynolds said to keep your generator at least 20 to 30 feet from your home, so the exhaust doesn’t creep back into your house.

“Once the snow strikes, we get kind of desperate to keep our house warm because we don’t want it to freeze, so you just have to really stay on your P’s and Q’s to make sure your house is safe,” Reynolds said.

Drivers should also be wary of heating themselves inside their cars while it sits idle because of the potential of carbon monoxide from the exhaust seeping back into the vehicle.

Reynolds says if you are using a space heater or using an open flame to light your home, it’s critical to keep all flammable objects at least three feet away in all directions to prevent a fire. When using a kerosene heater, you must first fill the unit outside your home.

Reynolds says to make sure you are also storing kerosene fuel inside a blue kerosene container. Gasoline should always be stored in a red container labeled gas so that kerosene and gas fuel is never mixed up or poured into the wrong container.

In the event of power outages, it’s also essential to make sure appliances like stoves or ovens are turned off and are free of items that could catch fire should the power be restored later. It’s also essential to ensure you have working smoke detectors installed in your home. LED flashlights are also the safest tool you can use to light your home.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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