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Prepped for Power Outages? Don't Hurt Yourself with Alternatives

Fill up that generator and top off the kerosene heater, but be careful. 

“If you have a generator and are concerned about a potential power outage, gas it up today, but be sure to only operate it outdoors,” said Sherlita Amler, Westchester County Commissioner of Health. “Generators produce carbon monoxide (CO) and can quickly become a lethal source of poisoning when not used properly.”

The health department offers these safety tips:

Generators
• Never use a generator inside your house or in partly enclosed areas such as garages, basements, porches, crawlspaces, or sheds, or in partly-enclosed spaces such as carports or breezeways – even if windows are open.
• Only use generators outside, away from open windows. Carbon monoxide in the generator's fumes can build up and cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be lethal.
• Place generators outside, far away and downwind from any buildings. One study demonstrated that 15 feet was not far enough to prevent a build-up of CO inside the home.
• Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Overloading your generator can damage it and any appliances connected to it. Fire may result. 
• Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions. Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion.
• If your generator has a detachable fuel tank, remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.

Alternate Heating/Cooking Sources
• If you plan to cook on a barbeque grill or camp stove, remember these also produce carbon monoxide and are for outdoor use only. 
• 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. 

Tools and Equipment
• Fuel-powered tools and equipment, such as lawn mowers, snow blowers, chain saws, and pressure-washers, emit CO. Never start or operate these devices in an enclosed space such as a garage.

Fire safety
• When adding fuel to a space heater, or wood to a wood stove or fireplace, wear non-flammable gloves and clothing. 
• 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. 
• Be careful with candles—never leave them burning if you leave the room. 
• Keep children away from space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves to avoid accidental burns.
Jerry Eimbinder February 04, 2014 at 06:18 PM
Excellent advice and guidance. Thanks Lanning.
Andrea Elam February 04, 2014 at 07:44 PM
I am the Westchester Health Educator for NY Poison Control. These safety tips are excelllent, just want to add my own resource: NYC Poison Control Center Carbon Monoxide and Generator Safety Protect Yourself, Your Family, and Your Friends What is carbon monoxide (CO)? • Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. Fuels like kerosene, coal, oil, wood, propane, and gasoline produce CO when they do not burn completely. CO can come from furnaces, ovens, appliances, cars, and engine-powered equipment such as generators, lawn mowers, snow blowers, and power washers. Why does CO poisoning happen during a power outage? • Portable generators, ovens, and heating sources produce CO. • Without proper ventilation, use in an enclosed or semi-enclosed space leads to CO accumulation. This CO replaces oxygen in the air. What are the symptoms of CO poisoning? • Symptoms of mild to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (without the fever). • Common symptoms are: o Headache and weakness o Nausea or dizziness o Trouble breathing • Serious poisoning can cause chest pain, confusion, loss of consciousness, and death. DOs •DO keep battery-operated or battery back-up CO detectors in each sleeping area. • DO replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. • DO check that stoves, fireplaces, and furnaces are vented properly. • DO leave your home immediately if a detector sounds and call the fire department. • DO call 911 right away if you experience serious symptoms of CO poisoning • DO call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. DON’Ts • Never use a portable generator indoors, in an enclosed space such as a shed or garage (even with the door open), or within 20 feet of your home. • Never place a portable generator near a vent, window, or other opening into the house. • Never heat your house with a gas oven, camp stove, or charcoal grill. • Never use a charcoal or gas grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, garage, or outside too close to a window. • Never run a car, truck, or other vehicle inside a garage or against a snow bank. • Never ignore or take apart the carbon monoxide or smoke detector alarm. Call the NYC Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 with any questions about CO poisoning. Pharmacists and nurses certified in poison information are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. All calls are free of charge and confidential. Translator services are provided in 150 languages. Call 911 if you are experiencing an emergency.
Lanning Taliaferro February 04, 2014 at 08:12 PM
Thank you, Andrea.

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