If you plan to use a generator in the event of a power outage during Hurricane Florence, you should have a carbon monoxide detector, too.
That’s the message from Dr. John Jacob Freiberger, an anesthesiologist and hyperbaric medicine specialist at Duke University.
Freiberger said carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious risk when people use generators improperly.
“Carbon monoxide can be extremely deadly as well as treacherous,” he said. “It rapidly penetrates sheetrock walls, so putting the generator on your porch or in your garage is absolutely no protection.”
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning come on rapidly and without warning, often leaving victims incapacitated and unable to call for help, Freiberger said.
The Duke Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology has frequently treated patients who fell asleep with generators running, Freiberger said. Generators should always be monitored and used in a well-ventilated area, he added.
“It’s very inexpensive to buy a carbon monoxide monitor,” he said. “You see the lines of people buying generators — and carbon monoxide monitors are $15, $20, $30, and may be lifesaving.”
Retailers have reported brisk sales of generators ahead of Hurricane Florence.
Because generators should not get wet, people sometimes place them too close to their homes under the shelter of a porch or garage. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends placing generators outside, at least 20 feet away from your home, with the exhaust vents facing away from your home.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas. Signs of poisoning are similar to flu-like symptoms, including headache, dizziness, nausea and fatigue.