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Carbon Monoxide: The danger after the storm

Carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless

Carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless.

It’s been a rough, wild summer when it comes to weather. Heavy prolonged rains, tornadoes, powerful storms bringing monsoon-like rainfall, golf-ball-sized hail, apocalyptic thunderstorms and winds powerful enough to level entire neighborhoods.

The most common occurrence under such conditions are power outages which, depending on the size and amount of the damage inflicted upon the power distribution system, can last for days.

To keep the household running, the food from spoiling in the fridge, the sump pump from stalling when it is needed the most, homeowners will usually resort to a gasoline powered generator, lanterns and gas-powered appliances.

According to State and Federal Emergency Management Officials, many people die after a storm or similar disaster from carbon monoxide poisoning due to improper use of such generators and gas-powered tools.

Carbon monoxide is a very poisonous, invisible and odorless gas that can fatally poison a person in a matter of minutes. Opening doors, windows and using fans will not stop carbon monoxide buildup, which is why equipment that produces carbon monoxide should never be used indoors.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include dizziness, weakness, fatigue, and chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, and loss of consciousness and – in severe cases – death.

Here some important safety tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  1. Under no circumstance, run a gas powered generator indoors, in the garage, basement or crawl space. Gas powered generators are only safe if running in a well ventilated area, at least 10 feet away from the house
  2. Do not use a grill (gas or charcoal) inside a house, garage, shed or tent or fireplace.
  3. Do not use the heat from a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
  4. Add battery operated carbon monoxide detectors to your emergency preparedness kit.
  5. Consider buying battery operated backup versions of vital equipment, such as the sump pump, to minimize the need to run a generator during power outages.
  6. If you are running a generator or any carbon monoxide producing appliance and start to feel dizzy, get out immediately. Don’t wait. If anyone faints or loses conscience, call 911 immediately.

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