According to a study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January is the deadliest month for carbon monoxide poisoning. This presents particular concerns for home owners and renters – due in part to the use of alternative heating and power sources during power outages. Therefore, as the winter ice and snowstorm season sets in, Briggs & Stratton Corporation finds it an opportune time to remind residents of colder states to be mindful of the dangers of carbon monoxide while operating portable generators.
“Portable generators are designed to thrive during ice and snow storm season, when it’s more likely power outages will abruptly put families in the dark,” said Deadra Richelle-Purifoy, assistant marketing manager for Briggs & Stratton’s Power Products Group. “But generators can be dangerous if not operated properly. We hope to bring attention to the dangers of carbon monoxide and lead residents to protect themselves.”
Generator demand has increased nationwide in recent years in the wake of devastating events like Superstorm Sandy. There are also far more people purchasing portable generators who have never owned one before and may be unfamiliar with safe operation. Couple that with the fact that emotions tend to run high during power outages, and this is where dangerous mistakes often occur.
Portable generators are powered by small engines that emit potentially harmful carbon monoxide gas. If carbon monoxide is not allowed to exhaust from the engine in a safe manner, harmful effects – even death – can occur in a matter of minutes.
Carbon monoxide is especially dangerous because it is a tasteless, odorless and colorless gas. It is produced any time a fossil fuel is burned and can still be present even when exhaust fumes cannot be detected.
The best way for cold-weather residents to operate a portable generator is to read and follow the operator’s manual before starting the unit. Additional steps to ensure safe operation include:
• Only operate a portable generator outside, far away from windows, doors and vents to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide gas accumulating and potentially being drawn toward occupied spaces.
• Install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms or plug-in alarms with battery backup according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Smoke alarms cannot detect carbon monoxide gas.
• Do not run portable generators inside homes, garages, basements, crawlspaces, sheds or other partially enclosed spaces, even if using fans or opening doors and windows. Carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these spaces and linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.
• Always place your portable generator downwind and point the engine exhaust away from occupied spaces.
• If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a portable generator, you may have carbon monoxide poisoning. Get outside to fresh air immediately and call 911 for emergency medical attention. Very high levels of CO can rapidly cause victims to lose consciousness before they can rescue themselves. DO NOT attempt to shut off the generator before moving to fresh air. Entering an enclosed space where a generator is or has been running may put you at greater risk of CO poisoning.
Visit www.briggsandstratton.com/us/en/SafetyFirst for more information on safely using a portable generator.