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Still No Power? Practice Generator Safety

They are loud and gassy and essential of late; officials warn citizens to be wary of the carbon monoxide that comes from generators.

At 10:21 p.m. on Oct. 31, a caller reported the carbon monoxide detectors in her residence at Crest Drive were going off. The resident told Tarrytown police she was concerned due to numerous generators being used in the area. And she should be.

The Fire Department responded and found positive readings for CO inside the residence. They ventilated the residence. Fire Chief Eugene Gaspare reported the positive readings came from a generator that was now turned off.

Lietenant William Herguth advises folks to keep generators a “safe distance from the home” and certainly not in any confined space like a garage or near an open window where fumes could enter the house. He did say that beyond this one incident he hadn't seen any other generator-related problems.

The Health Department has issued their own warnings in the wake of thousands still without power throughout the county.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning is a tragedy that is easily prevented,” County Executive Robert Astorino said. “Never run gas-powered generators in your garage, basement or on a covered porch. Keep them outside and away from windows and doors to keep dangerous carbon monoxide from entering your home.”

From the Health Department's release:

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is highly poisonous and is produced by gas and charcoal-powered equipment. Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include fatigue, weakness, chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath upon exertion, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, loss of consciousness, and in severe cases, death.        

“Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen in just minutes and it can be deadly,’’ warned County Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD. “Be sure your carbon monoxide alarms are working and your generator is properly installed. Don’t risk the life of you and your family members. If you think you may have carbon monoxide poisoning, seek immediate medical attention.”        

The Health Department recommends the following measures to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Do not burn charcoal or gas grills inside a house, garage, vehicle, tent or fireplace.
  • NEVER use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home. Keep it protected from rain and snow in its own shed.
  • ALWAYS locate the unit outdoors on a dry surface, away and downwind from doors, windows, vents and air conditioning equipment that could allow CO to come indoors.
  • Follow the instructions that come with your generator. Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Fire may result.
  • Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, and follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
  • Test your CO alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.
  • Remember that you cannot see or smell CO, and portable generators can produce high levels of CO very quickly.
  • If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air right away. Do not delay!
  • For a poison emergency, call the New York Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.
  • If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911 immediately.

Only use grills and camp stoves outdoors.

  • If you use a fireplace, wood stove, or portable kerosene heater to stay warm, be sure there is adequate ventilation to the outside. Without enough fresh air, carbon monoxide fumes can build up in your home.
  • Never use a natural gas or propane stove/oven to heat your home.
  • If you use a kerosene heater, use 1-K grade kerosene only. Never substitute with fuel oil, diesel, gasoline or yellow (regular) kerosene.
  • Open a window to provide ventilation when a portable kerosene heater is in use to reduce carbon monoxide fumes inside the home.
  • Never add fuel to a space heater when it is hot. The fuel can ignite, burning you and your home.
  • Keep the heater away from objects that can burn, such as furniture, rugs or curtains.
  • If you have a fire extinguisher, keep it nearby.
  • Never leave candles burning if you leave the room.
  • Keep children away from space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves to avoid accidental burns.

        For more information on this and other health topics, visit www.westchestergov.com/health.

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Craig Allan November 08, 2012 at 05:13 PM
If your alarm systems is mains powered with a battery backup, your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector may not provide a warning after the battery backup for the main panel fails, typically 8-12 hours without power. If you have a standby or emergency generator make sure to power your alarms system. In the event there is no mains power either from Con Ed or a generator it is essential to have an independent battery powered, smoke and carbon monoxide alarm (the alarm can be combined a smoke and CO). They are readily available at hardware stores, such as Goldberg Hardware in Tarrytown or Home Depot.
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