RALEIGH — During power outages, people may use alternative energy sources to stay warm. However, many alternative energy sources create carbon monoxide (CO), an invisible, odorless, colorless gas which can cause breathing difficulty, headaches, nausea and even lead to death.
“Carbon monoxide is particularly dangerous because it cannot be seen or smelled,” said Joseph Zalkin, Wake County Emergency Operation Center operations section chief. “People should take precautions to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning to themselves and their families and should never use alternative heating sources or cooking equipment to stay warm.”
Take precautions if you choose to use an alternative energy source.
•Place the generator outdoors facing away from doors, windows and vents. Never use a generator inside, even in the garage.
•Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy-duty, outdoor rated extension cord.
•Let the generator cool before refueling.
Household gas appliance safety:
•To prevent flue gases from backing up into the home and creating a carbon monoxide hazard; exhaust vents of outside gas furnaces, gas water heaters, and gas dryers shall be kept clear of drifting snow.
•Never use gas stoves or ovens as a heating source.
•Never run a vehicle inside an attached garage.
•Never bring grills inside to cook.
•Use propane and charcoal grills outside and at least 10 feet away from the house. Using them inside the garage even with the door open poses a serious risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.
•The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are: dull headaches, weakness, nausea/vomiting, confusion, dizziness, and chest pain.
“People can protect themselves against CO poisoning by installing CO alarms in their houses and testing regularly,” said Wake County Emergency Medical Services Director Dr. Brent Myers. “They can also protect themselves with the proper installation, use, venting and maintenance of household cooking and heating equipment.
“If the CO alarm goes off, leave the house immediately; leave doors open and call 911 for assistance. Request immediate medical attention if anyone shows signs or symptoms of exposure.”
For more information on CO poisoning, visit www.cdc.gov/co/default.htm.