Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
Using caution in coping with power outage
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 8, 2008) – The recent outbreak of severe weather prompted residents in affected areas to cope with the resulting power outages. The State Fire Marshal’s Office reminds citizens to be cautious as they turn to supplemental heating sources or operate generators to maintain power.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas created by the incomplete burning of fuels such as wood, coal and natural gas. It is harmless when properly vented to the outdoors. However, it can kill if allowed to build up inside a building, said Richard Peddicord, assistant director of the Division of Fire Prevention. In 2005, fire departments around the country responded to 61,000 calls involving carbon monoxide, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
“Unfortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning is a fairly common occurrence,” Peddicord said. “However, we can reduce these incidents if residents take basic precautions.”
The NFPA offers these tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Buy a carbon monoxide detector and install it in a central area in your home. This device is similar to a smoke detector and will alert you if an unsafe CO level is found. If the detector sounds an alarm, call the nonemergency number for your local fire department to respond and evaluate the situation, then get out of the house.
- Have heating sources such as fireplaces and stoves professionally inspected each season before use to ensure they are venting properly.
- If you use a portable generator, run it outdoors away from doors, windows and vent openings. Each year, more CO deaths are blamed on portable generators as sales of the devices have grown, says the NFPA.
Besides carrying the risk of CO poisoning from inadequate ventilation, a generator, if improperly used, can threaten life and property.
The NFPA offers these tips on the use of a portable generator:
- Make sure the generator is properly sized for the electrical load that your appliances will place on it.
- If using an extension cord, make sure it is a heavy-duty, grounded cord with a three-prong plug.
- A generator may be connected to the house wiring system, but this must be done ONLY by a licensed electrician. The electrician will install a transfer switch that will ensure power does not flow back into the power lines when service is restored. Failure to install this switch can cause electrocution of a utility worker and an electrical fire.