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Generator safety: The dangers of carbon monoxide

Posted at 7:30 PM, Jun 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-01 19:30:31-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Whether you want to power up a refrigerator, light up a room, or just charge your phone, a generator can come in handy in the event of an extended power outage after a storm.  But there are dangers that come along with using them.

The aftermath of a hurricane or tropical storm in Southwest Florida could mean long periods without power.  So it's important to know how to operate a generator safely.

"Absolutely the most dangerous part of the generator is the carbon monoxide that they give off," says Deputy Fire Chief Richard Scott of Bonita Springs Fire.

Nicknamed the silent killer, carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can be deadly within minutes. Deputy Chief Scott says that's why it's important to be aware of your surroundings if you ever decide to use a generator.  "One of the problems that people do is put them in their homes, or garages that are too close to your house where you have an open window or door.  And if the wind direction is right, it can accumulate in your house. And by the time you realize you're having effects from carbon monoxide, it may be too late."

It's also important to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

"You're becoming lethargic, you have a sudden headache, you're not feeling quite well, you might have chest pains. You do need to exit the home immediately, get to a well ventilated open air area, and dial 911," says Natalie Hughes of Bonita Springs Fire.

To protect yourself from the dangers of carbon monoxide, you want to keep the generator at least 20 to 25 feet away from your home and never operate one inside your home or garage.

A carbon monoxide detector, which can be purchased at any department store, can also be a lifesaving item to have.  "Especially when you're using things like a generator that can omit that poison, that gas. It's very important that your home is detecting this," says Hughes.

Bonita Springs Fire Rescue also urge that when using a generator, be sure to use heavy duty, outdoor extension cords to prevent electrical hazards.