Surviving the Aftermath of a Hurricane, Tornado, or Flood: CPSC Warns of Post-Storm Hazards from Generators, Candles, and Wet Appliances

August 12, 2004
Release Number: 04-197

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warns of dangers from generators, candles, and wet appliances after a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, or flood knocks out electricity, and offers safety tips.

-Never use a generator indoors, including garages, basements, and crawlspaces, even with ventilation. Exhaust fumes contain high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) which can be deadly if inhaled. Use a portable generator outdoors in a dry area away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors. Never store gasoline in the home or near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage where gasoline fumes could be ignited. CPSC has more details about safe use of generators:

-Plug individual appliances into heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cords and plug the cords into the generator. Check that the extension cords have a wire gauge adequate for the appliance loads. Make sure that each cord is free of cuts or tears and its plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.

-Do not use electrical or gas appliances that have been wet and do not turn on damaged appliances because of the hazards of electric shock or fire. Do not use gas appliances that have been submerged because silt can make valves inoperable, leading to a gas leak or fire.

-Never use charcoal indoors because burning charcoal produces high levels of carbon monoxide that can reach lethal levels in enclosed spaces.

-Make sure the batteries in your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm are fresh. Test these alarms to make sure they are working.

-Exercise caution when using candles. Use flashlights instead. If you must use candles, do not burn them on or near anything that can catch fire. Keep burning candles away from drafts. Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish candles when you leave the room.