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Winter Weather Warning: Safeguarding Against the Invisible Killer (CO Poisoning)

Using alternative sources of power can cause carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in a home and poison the people and animals inside. Learn to recognize the most common symptoms of CO poisoning, and keep you and your family safe from this "invisible killer"...

When power outages occur after severe weather (such as ice storms), using alternative sources of power can cause carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in a home and poison the people and animals inside.

Every year, at least 430 people die in the U. S. from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires. Change the batteries in your CO detector every six months. If you don't have a battery-powered or battery back-up CO detector, buy one soon.
CO is found in fumes produced by portable generators, stoves, lanterns, and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO.


If you're considering using a gasoline-powered portable generator to temporarily power appliances and heaters to cook and stay warm, you need to know these five facts.

FACT #1:
The exhaust from portable generators contains poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) which can kill you and your family in minutes.

FACT #2:
NEVER use a portable generator inside your home or garage. Run the generator OUTSIDE ONLY, at least 20 feet from the house and away from your home’s windows and vents to keep those harmful fumes away.

FACT #3:
Carbon monoxide is an “invisible killer.” You cannot see or smell it. It can quickly incapacitate and kill you.

FACT #4:
Have working CO alarms in your home. There should be a CO alarm outside each sleeping area and on each level of your home.

FACT #5:
If a CO alarm goes off, DO NOT ignore it. Get everyone out of the house and then call 911 and let firefighters handle it.


How to Recognize CO Poisoning
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.

CO Poisoning Prevention Tips
  • Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
  • Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
  • Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper.
  • If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter.
  • If CO poisoning is suspected, consult a health care professional right away.




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