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Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Generators

September 2, 2020

As people on the Gulf Coast continue to clean up from Hurricane Laura, many in Louisiana remain without electrical power and may not have power restored to their homes and facilities in weeks or even months.

Gulf Coast residents may be using generators until their power is restored but using a generator inside a building puts residents at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled. When power outages occur during emergencies such as hurricanes, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling, or cooking can cause CO to build up in a facility and poison the people inside.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued safety guidelines to prevent carbon monoxide poisonings after an emergency:

  • Never use a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 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 or battery backup CO detector in your building.
  • 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.
  • If CO poisoning is suspected, call 911 or your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or consult a health care professional immediately.

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