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Hurricane Prep series: LDH encourages the public to take extra precautions when using generators to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

With hurricane season underway, the Louisiana Department of Health reminds the public about how to safely use a generator to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in the event of a power outage.

During 2021, CO poisoning killed 81 Louisiana residents and sent hundreds more to the hospital. Six of these deaths occurred during Hurricane Ida. Deaths from carbon monoxide exposure often spike after hurricanes and storms due to improper use of portable generators.

Known as the silent killer, CO is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas produced when fuel is burned that can easily build up to deadly levels. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like” and can appear as headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and confusion. Breathing in too much CO can make you pass out or kill you. People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal recommends the following safety tips for portable generators.

It is advised to place generators at least 20 feet away from your home.

Look for any air entry points into the home near your unit and ensure that those are properly closed and sealed off, such as windows or doors, air intakes, nearby dryer vents or crawl spaces.

A CO alarm should be installed in homes.

Generators should receive breaks that allow for any concentrated exhaust to clear away from the area. Windows and doors should be opened during this break to air out any concentration that may have collected in the home.

In addition, here are some safety tips for standby generators.

Check the manufacturing specs to verify the installation meets those specs.

If there's a concern that the installation standards were not met, get an appropriate party, like the installer, out to inspect it.

Ensure the generator is being appropriately maintained, including the oil change frequency requirements.

If an individual has been exposed to carbon monoxide, move the person into fresh air and call a doctor or healthcare provider. If someone has been electrocuted, call 911 for emergency care instructions.

More information is available here.