For Immediate Release
THINK SAFETY FIRST
CARBON MONOXIDE AND PORTABLE GENERATORS
West Haven, UT April 20, 2007--Everyone knows that portable generators can be useful to victims of a power outage or natural disaster. There are also dangers associated with generator use. Among the most insidious of these is carbon monoxide poisoning, which can occur even when operating precautions are taken, and when rules of safety have apparently been observed.
An odorless and colorless gas discharged in generator exhaust, carbon-monoxide and its effects are often ignored by sufferers, or unclear to them, indistinguishable from the common fatigue and stress heightened by an emergency situation. Keep in mind that sick, dizzy, light-headed, or weak sensations accompanying generator use can indicate CO poisoning. If you experience any of these, seek fresh air immediately. There is no time to delay. Waiting a few minutes to see if the feeling goes away on its own is probably the worst choice you can make.
WHAT STUDIES OF GENERATOR DEATHS HAVE SHOWN
Inhalation of carbon monoxide can do more than make you sick. It is frequently lethal. The numbers of deaths and emergency-room visits relating to portable or home-generator use increase each year.
In 2004, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) studied deaths from generator use following four major hurricanes that struck land in the state of Florida. Powering air conditioners and other appliances during nighttime hours was the primary factor identified in generator-related deaths in the CPSC Florida study. And in each of the cited cases, improper location of the portable generator became key to the tragic outcome. In 2000, two children swimming behind a family houseboat on Utah’s Lake Powell drowned after losing consciousness when a portable generator beneath a swim deck produced dangerous fumes. Once again, poorly-planned placement of a consumer-use generator was cited as the primary cause of the tragedy.
Another study into generator-related deaths by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) was still more conclusive. It involved 2 counties in Alabama impacted by Hurricane Katrina, and 16 Texas counties where wind gusts spawned by Hurricane Rita suspended electric service. In the CDC study, 50% of CO-poisoning victims had used their portable or home generators to power a swamp cooler (window-air conditioner). Investigators concluded that swamp cooler fans have a greater propensity to draw in naturally-thick and heavy generator exhaust than doors and windows left open, and even central-AC ducts. The obvious conclusion is that portable generators should never be placed in the vicinity of a swamp cooler. If available extension (generator) cords aren’t long enough to allow for a unit’s safe placement, then consider a manual transfer switch (for more information on transfer equipment and generator cords, visit the T-Rex Generators website at www.trexgenerators.com ).
The CDC reported that a small portable generator will produce the carbon-monoxide of six idling cars, a reality that surprises many consumers. Carbon-monoxide levels can be compounded with generator use because the gas is especially heavy and tends to linger, making it difficult to remove from an infected area. This means that generators are never safe to use indoors, including inside of open garages, and that during operation they should be located as far from residential units or buildings as possible. In particular, operation near windows, screen doors, vents, and air conditioning ducts should be avoided. Operators should also note wind direction, and locate generators so that prevailing air currents carry fumes away from nearby buildings or residences.
Here is a helpful tip: though all portable generators produce thick heavy exhaust, and pose a carbon-monoxide risk, certain models create fewer CO emissions than others. Modern generators sport overhead valve (OHV) engines. OHV motors are cleaner-running and lower in CO emissions than older side-valve, pushrod engines. Any consumer who intends to use a portable generator in locations with restricted airflow should avoid an antiquated model.
CARBON MONOXIDE SAFETY TIPS FOR GENERATOR USERS
A] Avoid utilizing a portable generator in any enclosed space – this means not simply inside buildings or homes, but crawl spaces, sheds, and open garages. This is true when there appears to be adequate ventilation from opened doors and windows, and even if fans have been employed to augment ventilation. Remember generator exhaust is heavy and difficult to clear from infected areas. It can linger at potentially-dangerous levels for hours and even days after the culprit generator has been removed.
B] Locate generator model far away from doors, windows, air-conditioning ducts or vents which can admit CO gas into a building or residence.
C] In particular a portable generator should never be placed in the vicinity of a swamp cooler. If available extension (generator) cords aren’t long enough to allow safe placement of a unit, then consider a manual transfer switch (to learn more about transfer equipment, see the T-Rex Generators website at www.trexgenerators.com ).
D] Because carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, its effects often go unnoticed by sufferers. Any sick, dizzy, light-headed, or weak feelings accompanying generator use can be warning signs. Should you experience any of these, power down the generator and seek fresh air at once.
E] It is best, if you experience symptoms, to get professional medical attention. If possible have someone drive you to an emergency room immediately. Once there, don’t wait to be diagnosed. Tell medical personnel that you suspect CO poisoning; this will save valuable time.
F] If your symptoms were suffered indoors, be certain that CO levels are safe before returning to the affected area. Your local fire department will have the necessary testing equipment, and will be glad to assist; remember, it’s what they’re there for.
G] Always follow the operator’s instructions and manufacturer’s safety tips that accompany your generator. They have been included for a reason.
H] As a precaution, if you intend to use a generator around any home or business, it is a good idea to install battery-operated carbon-monoxide (CO) detectors, or plug-in models which have a battery backup. Quality CO detectors should meet the latest Underwriters Laboratories safety standards (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, or CSA 6.19.01).
I] Test batteries in your detectors regularly, on a monthly basis if possible.
For further information about portable generators visit the T-Rex Generators website located at: www.trexgenerators.com