PORTABLE GENERATORS: BEWARE OF THE SILENT DANGERS
Millions of people throughout the Northeast have experienced power outages so far during this unpredictable and nasty winter. With the power out, many homeowners turned to portable generators to provide temporary electricity.
Many homeowners are unaware, however, of the dangers posed by portable generators. Portable generators emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, and also pose risks of electrical shock, fire, and burn injury. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairman Robert Adler announced that a new agency report finds that portable generators were linked to more than 85 percent of non-fire CO deaths associated with engine-driven tools. It is most important to make sure the Carbon Monoxide alarm is working properly. CPSC staff found that a CO alarm was present in only about eight percent of the cases involving a CO death with engine-driven tools, and most of the CO alarms were not working at the time of the fatal incident involving engine-driven tools. Proper installation and maintenance of CO alarms saves lives.
Here is what you need to be aware of if you plan to use a portable generator:
- Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas emitted by portable generators, vehicles, and other fuel consuming equipment. CO is frequently referred to as the “Silent Killer” because it cannot be detected by our senses. Carbon monoxide exposure claims approximately 500 lives each year in the United States, and another 8,000 to 15,000 are treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.
- People using portable generators need to be wary of carbon monoxide exposure, and must keep portable generators outside of the home. Generators should never be used inside of a home, garage, basement, shed or other confined space. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can build up quickly in confined spaces and linger for hours after a generator is turned off. Turning on a fan or opening a window is not enough, generators need to be outside to prevent carbon monoxide exposure.
- Signs of carbon monoxide exposure include: headaches, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, lethargy, confusion, impaired judgment, memory problems, and irritability. If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak, you should get fresh air immediately and limit any further exposure.
- Follow the manufacturer instructions for the use of a portable generator.
- Use portable generators outside of the garage or house.
- Keep generators at least 20 feet away from windows, doors, and vents.
- Installing carbon monoxide alarms in the home can help to prevent carbon monoxide exposure and poisoning.
- People using generators need to also be aware of the risk of shock and electrocution posed by use – particularly when operated in rainy or wet conditions. People should refrain from using generators when it is wet outside if at all possible. If not, generators should be protected from moisture and operated on a dry surface underneath an open canopy away from the home.
- Appliances should be connected to the generator directly or through heavy-duty, outdoor extension cords. Make sure that all extension cords have three prongs and are free of any nicks, frays, and cracks.
- Generators must never be plugged into a home’s wall outlet in an attempt to “back-feed” power to the home. This is very dangerous and creates a serious risk of electrocution.
- Generators burn fuel and pose a risk of fire. Fuel should be kept outside of living areas and away from fuel-burning appliances and machinery.
- Generators should be permitted time to cool before refueling. A fire could ignite if fuel is spilled on hot engine parts.
Awareness is critical to prevention. Be aware of the dangers of using a portable generator. It could save a life.
The Quinn Law Group, LLC, is a preeminent personal injury law firm with offices conveniently located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Cherry Hill, New Jersey. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dangerous product or through the fault of another, please contact Sean E. Quinn for a free, no-obligation consultation. We are Your Voice. Your Advocate.