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Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After an Emergency

Generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices should never be used inside a home, basement, garage, or camper - or even outside near an open window.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled.

When power outages occur during emergencies such as hurricanes or winter storms, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling, or cooking can cause carbon monoxide to build up in a home, garage, or camper and to poison the people and animals inside.

Carbon monoxide detectors

Every home should have at least one working carbon monoxide detector. The detector’s batteries should be checked twice annually, at the same time smoke detector batteries are checked.

Every year, more than 500 people die in the U. S. from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Where is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by small gasoline engines, stoves, generators, lanterns, and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. Carbon monoxide from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing carbon monoxide.

How to recognize carbon monoxide poisoning

Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness and death. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before ever having symptoms.

Carbon monoxide poisoning prevention tips

  • Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper.
  • Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine outside an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
  • Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
  • If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter.
  • If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, consult a health care professional immediately.

Source: Coordinating Center for Environmental Health and Injury Prevention

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