Ways to Protect Your Loved Ones This Hurricane Season June 2, 2022
Every year, June marks the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs through October. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), American consumers face increased risks for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrocution, and fires associated with the influx of severe storms and hurricanes.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
One of the biggest risk factors for sustaining preventable injuries is when a storm or hurricane knocks out electrical power. When a home loses power, the occupant may opt to use a gasoline-powered portable power generator as a back-up energy source. The CPSC reports that portable power generators are accompanied by heightened risks for CO poisoning that can cause fatal effects in individuals within mere minutes. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels, like gasoline. When individuals experience carbon monoxide exposure, the CO molecules displace the oxygen in their bodies and cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Tiredness and confusion
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
Here are some of the CPSC’s tips for limiting the dangers that are associated with using a gasoline-powered portable generator in the case of a power outage:
- Install battery-operated CO alarms or carbon monoxide alarms with battery backup on each level and outside of all separate sleeping areas in the home
- Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and inside of each bedroom
- Test your CO and smoke alarms monthly to make sure they are working properly. Replace batteries if necessary
- Never operate a portable generator inside a home, basement, garage, crawlspace, shed, or on a porch. Even if you open windows, it will not provide adequate ventilation to avoid a lethal buildup of carbon monoxide in the area
- Only operate portable generators outside, at least 20 feet from the home, and direct the generator’s exhaust away from the home or any other property that it could enter
- Ensure that the generator has had proper maintenance. Read and follow all labels, instructions, and warnings on the generator and in the instruction manual
- Ask retailers for a portable generator that shuts off automatically when it detects high levels of carbon monoxide. Some of these models also have reduced emission rates
- If you smell or hear gas leaking, leave your home immediately and contact local gas authorities from outside the property. Do not operate any electronics, such as lights or a phone, before you leave the premises
- Never ignore an alarm when it sounds. Get outside immediately and call 9-1-1 for help
If you suspect that you or a loved one are experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, seek out fresh air immediately and call for medical assistance.
Mitigating Electrical Shock and Fire Hazards
Not only does hurricane season bring with it increased carbon monoxide dangers, but also additional electric shock and fire hazards. These risks increase largely due to the fact that it only takes one spark to initiate a fire. The summer season tends to be hot and dry, which means ground lightning strikes can easily start catastrophic fires. Another danger is that electrical wires conduct electricity from lightning strikes. Because electricity is able to travel along electrical wires, it can cause electrocution. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it is advisable to unplug all the appliances that you safely can during a severe thunder, lightning storm, or hurricane.
The CPSC provides a variety of useful tips for consumers on how to decrease electric shock and fire-related hazards. Here are a few examples of the agency’s safety tips:
- Never use charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal in an enclosed space can produce lethal amounts of carbon monoxide, and it can also start a house fire. Do not cook on a charcoal grill in the garage, even with the door open
- Use caution when burning candles. If you can, use a flashlight instead. If you must use candles, do not burn them in close proximity to anything that can catch fire
- Never leave candles unattended. Extinguish all candles when you leave the room and before you go to sleep
- Before using any appliances, have a professional or a certified representative from an electric company evaluate them for safety. Replace all gas control valves, electrical wiring, circuit breakers, and fuses that were under water at any point in time
- Keep an eye out for signs that your appliances may have gotten wet. Never touch a wet appliance if it is still plugged into an electrical source
If you suspect there is a fire or that a person has sustained injuries associated with an electric shock, call for medical assistance right away.
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