If you’re going to be stuck in your home for days due to Hurricane Irene, be sure to think about food safety and the safe use of generators and camp stoves if the electricity goes out
The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire increases when people use gas-powered generators. From 1999 to 2010, nearly 600 generator-related deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning were reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most were a result of someone using a generator inside the home, in the basement, or in the garage.
The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection offers these tips:
The loss of power can lead to drastic mistakes.
- Portable generators – Never use a generator inside your home, basement, shed, or garage, even if doors and windows are open. Keep generators outside, about 10 feet away from windows, doors, and vents. Make sure the wind isn’t blowing the generator’s fumes back toward your home. Read the label on your generator and the owner’s manual and follow the instructions. Any electrical cables you use with the generator should be free of damage and suitable for outdoor use.
- Charcoal grills and camp stoves – Never use these indoors. Burning charcoal or a camp stove in an enclosed space can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide.
- Flammable liquids – Don’t store any flammable liquids, including gasoline or lighter fluid, near your generator or portable grill.
- CO alarms – Install carbon monoxide alarms immediately outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home to protect against CO poisoning. Change the batteries every year.
- Candles – If possible, use flashlights instead of candles. If you must use them, never leave them burning unattended.
- Electrical and gas safety – Stay away from any downed wires, including cable TV feeds. They may be live with deadly voltage. If you are standing in water, don’t handle or operate electrical appliances. If your basement is flooded, don’t walk through the water – electrocution could result. Electrical components, including circuit breakers, wiring in the walls, and outlets that have been under water, shouldn’t be turned on. They should be replaced unless properly inspected and tested by a qualified electrician.
- Wet valves – Natural gas or propane valves that have been under water should be replaced. Smell and listen for leaky gas connections. If you think there is a gas leak, immediately leave the house and leave the door(s) open. Never strike a match. Any size flame can spark an explosion. Before turning the gas back on, have the gas system checked by a professional.
- Sump pump – Before the storm arrives, check the pump to be sure that it’s operating properly. Lift the float to see if it activates the pump’s motor.
- Profiteering – If you think you are being charged an extremely high price for any storm-related service or item, report it to state the Attorney General’s Office.
- Contractors – To help protect yourself against getting taken by a dishonest contractor, be sure that anyone you hire for cleanup or repairs is licensed and/or registered with your state.
Power losses can affect the safety of food.
- Your refrigerator will keep foods cool for about four hours without power, if it’s unopened. Add block or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity will be off longer than four hours.
- To be safe, remember, "When in doubt, throw it out.
- Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.