Hurricane Sandy developed into a Superstorm that traversed the Appalachian Mountains and pushed it’s way into Michigan, Wisconsin and Canada. Although no longer a hurricane, it still had fierce winds that gusted to 50 MPH which produced waves on Lake Michigan as high as 33 feet, and snow depths of more than a foot in the mountains and in Michigan.
By the time the winds subsided and the storm was over, more than 8.6 million utility customers were without power. Residents responded by hooking up portable generators to keep the lights on, power their sump pumps, and run their furnaces.
In some cases, fear of theft or lack of knowledge caused some people to place their generators too close to, or even inside their homes, despite manufacturer warnings not to do so.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is blamed for the deaths of at least eight people in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Dozens more found themselves in hospital emergency rooms, sickened by the exhaust fumes produced by gas-powered space heaters and generators.
-A 55-year-old man was found dead in his New Brunswick, New Jersey home after running a generator in his basement.
-A Trenton, New Jersey woman died from high levels of carbon monoxide poisoning, and seven other members of her family were hospitalized after running a generator and propane space heater on the first floor of their home.
-In Newark, New Jersey, two nineteen-year-old girls were killed by carbon monoxide from a generator placed outside their apartment window.
All of these tragic deaths could have been avoided by the safe placement of their electric generators and other fuel-dependent devices, along with the installation of a battery-powered carbon-monoxide detector.
Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas and a byproduct of burning carbon-based fuels such as gasoline, kerosene, diesel, fuel oil, propane and natural gas. Although it occurs naturally, even small concentrations can cause sickness or death. A level of just 667 parts per million may cause conversion of half the body’s hemoglobin and quickly lead to seizure, coma, and death.
Breathing fresh air without carbon monoxide reduces CO in the blood by 1/2 every five hours.
Carbon monoxide sickens and kills quickly. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and weakness. If you or a family member experience these symptoms, move to a well ventilated area immediately and seek medical assistance.
Portable Generator Placement
Never place a portable generator outside an open window, even if that window is only open a crack. Differences in air temperature between inside and outside can pull the exhaust fumes directly into the home. Keep the generator away from open vents, doors and windows.
Never run portable generators indoors, or in any enclosed space such as a garage, shed, or vehicle, even if the windows and doors are open. Windows and doors do not provide sufficient ventilation.
Place the generator so that the prevailing wind―the direction the wind usually comes from―blows the exhaust away from the house and not into it. Be aware of where your neighbor’s home is, and how your generator placement may affect them.
Run portable generators at least 20 feet from the house.
Install battery-powered carbon-monoxide detectors inside your home and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Replace the battery every six months or as recommended in the owner’s manual.
Portable generators are safe to use when they are used properly. Always read the owners manual and all documentation that comes with your generator. If you rent a generator, ask the rental company for instructions on where to place the generator and how to fuel it.
Pay special attention to placing your portable generator in a location that will keep your home safe. It’s not worth the risk of dying to run a generator inside your home in order to prevent someone from stealing it.