Generators Pose Hazard to Tornado Victims

NEW YORK (MainStreet)  — As cities and towns in the southern part of the U.S. recover from the devastating tornadoes that swept across Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned victims in the hardest hit areas that safety precautions still need to be taken, specifically with portable generators.

These generators, which can be purchased at most hardware stores and cost anywhere from $140 to $2,500, provide electricity when power is out, but can also give off exhaust fumes that contain extremely high levels of carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide can quickly lead to full incapacitation and death when inhaled. According to the CSPC, carbon monoxide from generators caused at least 43 deaths in 2009.

The CPSC reminds consumers to never use a generator indoors, or in garages, basements, crawlspaces and sheds, even if the space has a ventilation system. 

Instead, generators should be kept outdoors in a dry area away from doors, windows or vents that could allow carbon monoxide to waft inside a home. These generators should also not be on when it’s raining since most consumer-grade generators are not weatherproof and can cause electrocution and shock when used in wet conditions.

The CPSC said consumers using a generator as a temporary source of electricity should also heed these precautions:

  • Do not connect the generator directly into your home's electrical system through an electrical outlet as this poses a fire and electrocution hazard to utility workers and neighbors served by the same transformer.
  • If using a generator, plug individual appliances into heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cords and then plug these cords into the generator.
  • Check that the extension cords have a wire gauge adequate for the amount of appliances you intend to plug into it. Also, all these cords should have all three prongs, including a grounding pin.
  • Make sure both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms have batteries and are working properly.

For more information on the dangers of carbon monoxide and precautions that can be taken to minimize them, visit the CPSC website.