Power Outages and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by burning gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. Improperly ventilated appliances and engines, particularly in a tightly sealed or enclosed space, may allow carbon monoxide to accumulate to dangerous levels.
When power outages occur during natural and manmade emergencies, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling, or cooking can cause carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in a home, garage, or camper and poison the people and animals inside.
Exposure to CO can cause loss of consciousness and death. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.
In the event of a power outage:
- Never use a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside your home, basement, or garage.
- Place the generator at least 20 feet from any window, door, or vent. Use an extension cord that is more than 20 feet long to keep the generator at a safe distance.
- When using a generator, use a battery-powered CO detector in your home.
- Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper.
- Never leave a motor vehicle running in 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 CO poisoning is suspected, call 911 or your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or consult a health care professional right away.