Use generators safely during winter weather

Portable generators pose serious carbon monoxide hazard

Special to Civitas Media

NASHVILLE — As cold weather sweeps across Kentucky and Tennessee, home and business owners may rely on portable generators during occasional power outages to operate their electrical equipment such as heating units, computers, water pumps and lighting.

While portable generators can provide a quick fix, they can also pose unseen hazards that can have long-lasting effects. The State Fire Marshal’s Office reminds residents that following some basic tips can ensure safe generator use every time.

“If winter weather causes a power outage, a portable electricity generator can be quite valuable, but it’s important to know the fuel-powered engines can create toxic amounts of carbon monoxide so they should only be used outdoors,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “Never use one in a home or garage and place them at least 20 feet away from doors and windows. We want Tennesseans to stay safe this winter while keeping warm.”

Because carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas, it is often referred to as the invisible killer. Since 2013, 12 people have died in Tennessee as a result of non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning. This past September, Tennessee commemorated its first Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day in an effort to stop this preventable loss of life.

Avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. Follow these tips for safely operating a portable generator:

• Always read, follow, and save the manufacturer’s operating instructions for your generator.

• Never use a generator inside your home, garage, crawl space, or other enclosed areas. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off. Only use your generator outdoors, away from open windows, vents, or doors that could allow carbon monoxide fumes inside.

• Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for correct placement and mounting height.

• Ensure everyone in the home knows to immediately get to a fresh air location should the carbon monoxide alarm sound. Have someone call 911 from outside the home.

• Know the initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: Headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness (flulike symptoms but without the fever). If you experience these symptoms during or after generator use, get to a fresh air location immediately and have someone call 911.

Portable generators pose serious carbon monoxide hazard

Special to Civitas Media

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