Experts warn of carbon monoxide dangers amid power outages

Portable generators pose risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

Experts warn of carbon monoxide dangers amid power outages
Experts warn of carbon monoxide dangers amid power outages

Due to severe weather across Metro Detroit over the past week, many people have been experiencing power outages at home.

During outages, people turn to portable generators to keep their lights and appliances working -- but the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning people that if those generators aren’t used properly, they can cause serious consequences.

“We know it only takes one storm to knock out power and wreak havoc and cause destruction, so now is the time to be prepared,” said Karla Crosswhite with CPSC.

Portable generators pose a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Crosswhite says carbon monoxide is “colorless, it is odorless and it can kill your family within minutes.”

She recommends knowing how to use your generator before you actually need it.

“Don’t wait until the storm hits to try to figure out how to use it,” Crosswhite said. “Now is the time to read your owner’s manual.”

Experts say it is best to keep your portable generator at least 20 feet away from your home, and to never bring it inside.

“You wouldn’t run your car inside your house, so don’t run your portable generator inside either,” Crosswhite said.

Click here to view a carbon monoxide safety guide from CPSC.

During this year’s deep freeze in Texas, 11 people were killed and hundreds were hospitalized from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Much of it was caused by people bringing generators or charcoal grills into their homes.

“People will use their grill after a storm, maybe because their oven isn’t working. That also emits CO, so you don’t want to use charcoal in the house,” Crosswhite said.

Experts also say that residents should not inspect appliances that were damaged in a flood on their own.

“As far as wet appliances and things like that after a storm, especially if there’s flooding, you want to make sure you have your appliances checked out by your utility company or an electrician before you go back and start trying to use those appliances,” Crosswhite said. “(This is) important to reduce the risk of electrocution and fire hazards. And of course, if you smell gas, get out of the house and call 911.”

Everyone should have a carbon monoxide detector in their home, as it is your best defense against the colorless and odorless gas. Crosswhite recommends a battery operated alarm or one with a battery backup.

“You want that on each level of your home in front of each sleeping area in your home,” she said.

If the carbon monoxide detector goes off, get outside and call 911.

The CPSC says it’s also a good idea to use battery powered lights instead of candles during a power outage.

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About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.