Our hearts go out to all our family members, friends, colleagues, and readers who are facing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. If you're among the many experiencing a power outage please be careful to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from portable generators, fire from candles, and electrical shock from downed power lines.
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), and US Fire Administration (USFA) are warning that you should never use portable generators indoors, in basements, garages, or close to a home, even if doors and windows are open. The exhaust from generators contains high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) that are in fact greater than that of multiple cars running in a garage and can quickly incapacitate and kill. Remember that carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can kill in mere minutes. Also be sure that any electrical cables you use with a generator are free of damage and labeled safe for outdoor use.
- If you're relying on a charcoal grill or camp stove for cooking, don't even think about using it indoors. When used in enclosed spaces these types of grills can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide.
- If you haven't already, install carbon monoxide alarms immediately outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home to protect against CO poisoning. If it's been a year or longer since you've changed the batteries, now's the time to do it.
- Stay away from any downed wires, including cable TV feeds as they may be live with deadly voltage. If you're standing in water, don't handle or operate electrical appliances. Electrical components, including circuit breakers, wiring in walls, and outlets that have been under water shouldn't be turned on. Unless they're properly inspected and tested by a qualified electrician, they should be replaced.
- Natural gas or propane valves that have been under water should be replaced. Smell and listen for leaky gas connections. If you believe there's a gas leak, leave your house immediately, leave the door(s) open, and call 911. Never strike a match as even a tiny flame can spark an explosion. Before turning the gas back on, have the gas system checked by a professional.
- Use caution with candles. If possible, use flashlights instead. If you must use candles, don't burn them on or near anything that can catch fire and never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish candles when you leave the room.
For more information, contact the CPSC's Hotline at 800-638-2772 or download FEMA and USFA's lifesaving information on disasters at www.Ready.gov and www.usfa.dhs.gov. If you're worried about the food in your refrigerator, see my post with information on food safety after a hurricane.
-By Sharon Franke
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