ORLANDO, Fla. – Each hurricane season, we tend to hear a lot about generators and how they can come in handy if a storm knocks out power, but are you talking enough about how to safely use the piece of equipment?
It's true. Generators can be extremely helpful if a hurricane leaves you without power for a few days, but they also have the potential to be deadly if they aren't used correctly. What's even scarier is that many people may not even know they're not using them properly, letting carbon monoxide build up in their home, poisoning those living in it.
In fact, at least 430 people die in the United States each year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Accidental CO poisoning is also to blame for about 50,000 patients' trips to the emergency department each year, the CDC said.
What exactly is carbon monoxide? It's is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death, according to the CDC.
Why is it so dangerous? Well, because you can't see it or smell it -- hence its nickname: "the quiet killer." It's also especially dangerous because of how quickly it can damage your health.
Did you know red blood cells pick up CO faster than they pick up oxygen? When you inhale CO, your body actually replaces the oxygen in your blood with carbon monoxide, according to the CDC.
If you're one to host "hurricane parties" when a storm is threatening your area, you may want to reconsider. The CDC warns that carbon monoxide is especially dangerous for people who are sleeping or who have been drinking because they can die without ever having shown any symptoms.
We say all that not to scare you, but to let you know just how intense a piece of equipment a generator can be.
With that being said, there are ways to safely use generators and other powerful pieces of equipment that let off CO. Keep the following tips from the CDC in mind to help prevent CO poisoning:
- Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
- Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
- Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.
- Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
- Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper.
- If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter.
- If CO poisoning is suspected, consult a health care professional right away.
Once you've reviewed the tips, see how well you remember the information by testing your knowledge with the quiz below. Bookmark this page to come back to the tips and quiz ahead of a storm.
Hurricane season begins June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30. Visit ClickOrlando.com/Hurricane for more information on what to do before, during and after a storm.