Everything you need to know about generator safety

Fire official breaks down how people can stay safe

ORLANDO, Fla. – Every year, at least 430 people die in the U.S. from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. To add to that staggering statistic, 50,000 people across the nation visit the emergency room for the same reason.

It’s a problem and when hurricane season rolls around every year, our team strives to find ways to keep you and your loved ones safe in all aspects.

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“Unfortunately, carbon monoxide, you can’t smell it, Orange County Fire Rescue’s division chief Lauraleigh Avery said.

Without a carbon monoxide detector, the invisible gas can fill a room unnoticed until symptoms begin to show up. Red blood cells pick up carbon monoxide quicker than they pick up oxygen. Inhaling the odorless gas then replaces the oxygen in the blood, causing symptoms.

“It will cause dizziness, weakness, people will just feel sick, so at that point they need to go immediately outside to get some fresh air,” Avery said.

Carbon monoxide detector. (Pixabay)

Those sleeping or have been drinking alcohol often die before ever having the symptoms, often resulting in death.

When Florida was slammed by hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported six deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. Further reports showed 167 people were treated for nonfatal carbon monoxide poisoning.

All of these cases were a result of people using portable gas-powered generators incorrectly by placing the generators inside the garage or home and even having the generator outside but too close to the residence.

The post-interview statistics were staggering.

The CDC conducted interviews with the 167 people who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning and lived to tell about it during the 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Season. All of the cases were a result of not using the generator properly resulting in the exposure. The result findings help to pinpoint why the owners chose the placement at the time of exposure in an effort to improve safety in the future. (WKMG)

Post-interview analysis showed 69% of those who survived revealed concerns of theft often influenced where the generator was placed. Of those interviews, 74% reported they didn’t own generators before the 2004 hurricanes and 86% did not have a carbon monoxide detector in the home at the time. Only 67% reported reading or hearing carbon monoxide education before the poisoning happened.

To stay safe while using a generator in the aftermath of a hurricane, Avery said OCFR has a new acronym: O.A.D. It stands for outside, away and dry.

“So what that means is we want people to make sure they keep their generators away from their home, at least 10 feet away from any windows, doors, vents, that can prevent the carbon monoxide from entering their home,” Avery said.

We asked what people can do to ease their minds in regard to generator theft. Avery said purchasing a good lock and making sure the generator is secure can help deter theft. The harder the item is to steal, the more likely thieves will leave the generator behind because it requires too much time and effort to take.

Keeping the generator dry is a key safety measure too. Never place a generator or the power wires in water as it needs to be properly grounded to prevent the risk of electrocution.

Storing a generator is just as important as reading the manual before using one.

“The biggest thing is not the store their fuel inside the home,” Avery said. Fuel needs to be kept separate from inside the house and make sure it’s not next to a water heater, or other electronics, in order to prevent a fire. Avery also recommended hiring a licensed electrician to make sure the generator is hooked up properly to the home.

This is especially important if there are crews trying to restore power after the storm is gone. “Once the power companies come in and try to restore power to communities, it can back feed, if it’s done improperly, it can back feed through the power lines and you know, actually injure some of our power workers,” Avery said.

Following the user manual for your generator is one of the best things anyone can do. Sure it takes time, but it can prevent personal injury and damage to your home.

Electric crews work on power lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Golden Meadow, La. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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About the Author:

Emmy Award Winning Meteorologist Samara Cokinos joined the News 6 team in September 2017. In her free time, she loves running and being outside.