December 22, 2002
CPSC and FEMA Warn: When A Storm
Knocks Out Power, Don't Risk Carbon Monoxide Poisoning by Using
Gasoline-Powered Generators Indoors
disaster strikes and the power goes out, many Americans turn to their
gas-powered generators for heat and electricity. But when they set up those
generators inside, a second disaster may strike - carbon monoxide poisoning.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) have joined forces to warn residents not to use
gasoline-powered generators or charcoal grills indoors or in attached
garages because of the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. "If you want
to use a gasoline-powered generator when the power goes out, set it up
outside in a dry area, away from air intakes to the home," said CPSC
Chairman Hal Stratton. "And never use a charcoal grill inside because you
risk being poisoned by deadly carbon monoxide. Opening doors and windows or
operating fans to ventilate is inadequate and unsafe. Even with a CO alarm,
you should never use a gasoline- powered generator or a charcoal grill
"People often turn to substitutes like gasoline-powered generators when
storms, floods and other natural disasters interrupt power services," said
FEMA Deputy Director Mike Brown. "In preparing for disasters, it is critical
for people to identify and know the proper way to use generators."
CO is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning fuel. The initial
symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu, and include dizziness,
fatigue, headache, nausea and irregular breathing. Exposure to high levels
of CO can cause death. CO poisoning from fuel-burning appliances kills more
than 170 people each year. Others die from CO produced while burning
charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent. Still more deaths happen
when cars are left running in an attached garage.
"Every home should have a CO alarm that meets the most current safety
standards," advised Chairman Stratton. Those standards are: Underwriters
Laboratories 2034 (second edition 1998); International Approval Services
6-96 (second edition 1998); or Canadian Standards Association 6.19-01
FEMA and CPSC also warn about CO hazards when gas ranges are used to heat
homes. In addition, to prevent fires, space heaters should not be used while
you are sleeping and should be kept away from flammable materials and turned
off when the consumer leaves the room.
Bags of charcoal are labeled to warn about the hazard of burning charcoal
indoors. The labels say: "Warning! Carbon Monoxide Hazard. Burning charcoal
inside can kill you. It gives off carbon monoxide, which has no odor. NEVER
burn charcoal inside homes, vehicles or tents."
Emergency management officials also suggest that other options to consider
when power is interrupted from storms include checking into hotels or
staying in designated shelters.
For more information on safe use of generators, read this CPSC publication: