With the threat of wintry weather across the state this weekend, there is a chance that many North Carolinians will be without power in extremely low temperatures. Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey reminds people who use portable generators or alternative heating sources about the increased risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fire.
“Generators can save lives after major storms by powering medical equipment and heating sources, but people who use them should be extremely cautious,” said Commissioner Causey. “Carbon monoxide from generators is poisonous and can kill you or your family members in just a matter of minutes.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 430 people die every year from accidental CO poisoning.
Winter weather increases the chances of carbon monoxide poisonings. Vehicles, generators, and home heating devices can produce dangerous levels in your home in a short amount of time, enough to cause illness or even death.
Carbon monoxide if often referred to as the silent killer because it is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless poisonous gas that is produced when burning wood, propane, charcoal, or other fuels.
Once it spreads, your home and health are at high-risk. Carbon monoxide poisoning mimics common illness such as the flu or food poisoning with symptoms to include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness, or headaches.
It’s best to test your carbon monoxide alarms monthly. If your alarm has replaceable batteries, they should be changed at least every six months.
If you hear your carbon monoxide alarm beeping, do not ignore the alarm. Leave immediately because exposure can quickly lead to health risks including heart disease or fatality. Get pets and everyone out for fresh air. Call 9-1-1 and go to the hospital immediately. Do not re-enter the home until emergency responders say it’s safe.
If local emergency responders don’t find carbon monoxide in your home, try resetting your alarm. If the alarm doesn’t stop beeping, contact your manufacturer immediately.
The North Carolina Department of Insurance, Office of State Fire Marshal and Safe Kids NC recommends the following safety tips:
- Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area on every level of the home and in other locations required by law or code. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
- Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
- If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for.
- Home heating systems should be inspected and serviced annually by a trained service technician.
- Never use portable generators inside homes or garages, even if doors and windows are open.
- Use generators outside only, far away from the home.
- Never bring a charcoal grill into the house or garage for heating or cooking.
- Never use a gas range or oven for heating.
- If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engines or motors indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
- During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
For more information on how to keep you and your family safe from poisonings and fires caused by carbon monoxide, visit our website.