If you're planning on using a portable generator for power should Hurricane Sandy wipe out electricity in your region, beware: Nearly 100 people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by using their generators incorrectly.
The nation's poison centers, as well as federal safety agencies, have issued warnings urging Americans to use caution and follow safety guidelines when setting up their portable generators during this storm.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers says carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common poison-related cause of hospitalization and death in the wake of hurricanes. The odorless gas is called a silent killer because people often don't realize its effects until too late.
According to safety experts, when people use generators improperly - too close to homes, in garages or outside bedroom windows - carbon monoxide can seep in and sicken or even kill. Open windows or outside garage doors do not provide adequate ventilation for generators or other gas-powered equipment.
Follow these tips from the U.S. Fire Administration to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Always use generators outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents.
- NEVER use generators in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- Use battery-operated or plug-in (with battery backup) carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Be sure to test the batteries to make sure they are working.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers also recommends:
- If you experience sleepiness, dizziness, headaches, confusion or weakness, or if your carbon monoxide alarm sounds, immediately seek fresh air and call your poison center at 1-800-222-1222.