OnSafety is the Official Blog Site of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Here you'll find the latest safety information as well as important messages that will keep you and your family safe. We hope you'll visit often!

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Post-Hurricane: Power by Generator

According to the Associated Press as of Monday morning, Hurricane Irene blacked out 8 million homes and businesses at its height. Many are still without power.

And online news reports of carbon monoxide incidents due to generators have been popping up:

  • Ellicott City, Md.: A 48-year-old man died from carbon monoxide poisoning. His wife and teenage son were hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning. The family reportedly had a generator running in their garage. The batteries were dead in the carbon monoxide alarm in the home. (Source: Baltimore Sun)

 

  • Fairfield, Ct.: Six people – four adults and two children – were reportedly treated at a hospital for carbon monoxide exposure. A gasoline generator was running in the basement of their home. (Source: WTNH-TV 8)

 

  • Washington Township, N.J.: A police sergeant and a firefighter were reportedly hospitalized after working for five hours in a room while a generator was running. (Source: Examiner)

 

  • Kensington, Md.: Two people were reportedly taken to the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning. The house had a generator running outside; however, the carbon monoxide drifted in through open windows. (Source: WTOP)

 

  • Hanover, Va.: Two people were taken to the hospital. A gas-powered generator was reportedly outside an open window. High levels of CO were found inside. (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

 

  • Abington, Md.: A family of seven put their generator just inside the garage door. The garage door was reportedly raised about a foot to ventilate the fumes. But the fumes entered the house. The family survived. (Source: ABC-TV 2)

Generator Warning Label
Carbon monoxide is an invisible killer. It’s odorless and colorless. Operating a generator inside your home is like running hundreds of cars in your home. The carbon monoxide can kill you and your family in minutes.

If you’re a first-time generator user – or even if you’ve used one before – make sure to read the owner’s manual and the warning label on your generator carefully. Use  a generator outside your home, far away from windows, doors and vents. DO NOT use it inside. And make sure your home has a working CO alarm.

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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2011/08/post-hurricane-power-by-generator/

Brrrrr! Stay Safe in These Cold Months

house fireCPSC estimates that home heating was associated with about 33,300 fires and 180 fire deaths per year from 2005 to 2007. Cooking and home heating are the leading causes of residential building fires during winter.

In addition, there has been an increasing trend in unintentional non-fire CO deaths associated with consumer products since 1999. CPSC staff estimates that there were 184 CO poisoning deaths on average per year from from 2005-2007 compared with 122 deaths per year from 1999-2001. Since 1999, the majority of CO deaths have been associated with heating systems and portable generators.

CPSC, along with USFA, recommend that, in addition to having working smoke and CO alarms in your homes, you should follow these safety tips to prevent fires and CO poisoning:

Preventing Fires

  • Place space heaters on a floor that is flat and level. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, and other flammable materials; and place space heaters out of the flow of foot traffic. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • To prevent the risk of fire, NEVER leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater close to any sleeping person. Turn the heater off when you leave the area. See CPSC’s electric space heater safety alert for more space heater safety tips.
  • Never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater. Even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of a fire.
  • Have fireplace flues and chimneys inspected for leakage and blockage from creosote or debris every year.
  • Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire, and keep it open until the ashes are cool. An open damper may help prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home.
  • Store fireplace ashes in a fire-resistant container, and cover the container with a lid. Keep the container outdoors and away from combustibles. Dispose of ashes carefully, keeping them away from dry leaves, trash or other combustible materials.

Preventing CO poisoning

  • Schedule a yearly professional inspection of all fuel-burning home heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues and vents.
  • NEVER operate a portable gasoline-powered generator in an enclosed space, such as a garage, shed, or crawlspace, or in the home.
  • Keep portable generators as far away from your home and your neighbors’ homes as possible – away from open doors, windows or vents that could allow deadly carbon monoxide into the home.
  • When purchasing a space heater, ask the salesperson whether the heater has been safety-certified. A certified heater will have a safety certification mark. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features. An unvented gas space heater that meets current safety standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.
  • Do not use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space, unless they are designed specifically for indoor use. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper use.
  • Never use gas or electric stoves to heat the home. They are not intended for that purpose and can pose a CO or fire hazard.
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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2011/01/brrrrr-stay-safe-in-these-cold-months/

Hundreds of Kids Raise Awareness of CO

More than 400 Posters!

That’s how many entries we received from middle schoolers in our “Help Stop a Killer Contest.”

We sponsored this contest to help raise awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide, or CO, in the home. More than 180 people die every year from accidental, non-fire related CO poisoning associated with consumer products. In 2007, more than half of those deaths occurred from November through February.

Products like faulty or incorrectly vented fuel-burning appliances. Products like stoves improperly used to warm a home in the winter. Products like portable generators improperly used inside basements or near homes, garages, or sheds.

CO is a poisonous gas that you can’t see or smell. In addition to following these safety tips, you should take two main steps to prevent a CO tragedy in your house:

  •  Have a professional inspect your fuel-burning appliances, such as your furnace and fireplace, every year, and
  • Install a CO alarm on each level of your home and outside sleeping areas.
  • Take these steps today. And look at the terrific posters that so many kids took the time to make. Learn from them. Share your favorites with friends.

    As for us, we’re starting the judging and will announce the contest winners at the end of February.

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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2011/01/hundreds-of-kids-raise-awareness-of-co/

Space Heater Safety

Early this month, 5 children tragically died in a house fire in Florida. The St. Petersburg Times and other local media have reported that a space heater may have sparked the fire.

CPSC staff extends our condolences to the families, friends, and communities affected by the fire.

Sadly, this tragedy is also a reminder to anyone who uses space heaters to keep the following safety dos and don’ts in mind:

Do’s:

  • Use a space heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and has been certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters have the most up-to-date safety features. Older space heaters may not meet newer safety standards. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper use.
  • Place the heater on a level, hard, nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor.
  • Keep the heater at least three feet away from bedding, drapes, furniture, and other flammable materials.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • Turn the heater off if you leave the area.

Don’ts:

  • Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep.
  • Don’t place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
  • Never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater, as even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of fire.
  • Don’t use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space unless they are specifically designed for indoor use.

Also, be sure to place smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside of sleeping areas and inside each bedroom. Guard against carbon monoxide (CO) poisonings as well by installing carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Make sure that your batteries in all alarms are fresh and working.

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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2010/11/space-heater-safety/