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CPSC Issues Life-Saving Tips to Millions Left Without Power After Deadly Tornadoes Rip Through Multiple States

Release Date: December 07, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of the vast devastation caused by the deadly tornadoes that swept through multiple states over the weekend. As affected communities endure power losses, the CPSC urges consumers to take steps to prevent further harm, and reminds them to protect themselves against carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fires. 

Loss of Power—Using a Generator Safely

Consumers need to be especially careful during a loss of electrical power.  Many use portable generators and other devices for sources of power and heat, exposing themselves to increased risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fire. Consumers who plan to use a portable generator in the case of a power loss should follow these tips:

  • Always operate portable generators outside, at least 20 feet away from the house, and direct the generator’s exhaust away from the home and any other buildings that someone could enter.  
  • Never operate a portable generator inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace, shed or on a porch. Opening doors or windows will not provide enough ventilation to prevent the buildup of lethal levels of CO. 
  • Check that portable generators have had proper maintenance, and read and follow the labels, instructions, and warnings on the generator and in the owner’s manual.
  • CPSC urges consumers to look for and ask retailers for a portable generator equipped with a safety feature to shut off automatically when high CO concentrations are present around the generator.  Some models with CO shut-off also have reduced emissions; consumers should look for those models, as well. These models may or may not be advertised as certified to the latest safety standards for portable generators - PGMA G300-2018 and UL 2201.

Poisonous carbon monoxide from a portable generator can kill in minutes. CO is an invisible killer. It’s colorless and odorless. From 2010-2020, CPSC estimates that more than 700 people died from CO poisoning associated with generators, over 50 in 2020. CO poisoning from portable generators can happen so quickly that exposed persons may become unconscious before recognizing the symptoms of nausea, dizziness, or weakness.

 To help avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Install battery-operated CO alarms or CO alarms with battery backup at home, outside separate sleeping areas, and on each floor of the home.
  • Make sure CO alarms at home are working properly, by pressing the test button and replacing batteries, if needed. Never ignore a carbon monoxide alarm when it sounds. Get outside immediately. Then call 911.


Dangers from Charcoal and Candles

  • Never use charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal in an enclosed space can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide. Do not cook on a charcoal grill in a garage, even with the door open.
  • Use caution when burning candles. Use flashlights instead. If using candles, do not burn them on or near anything that can catch fire. Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish candles when leaving the room and before sleeping.
  • Make sure smoke alarms are installed on every level of the house and inside each bedroom. Never ignore a ringing smoke alarm. Get outside immediately. Call 911.

CPSC resources:

Carbon Monoxide Safety Center

Links to broadcast quality video for media: 

Tornado Safety b-roll: 

For more information, contact Nicolette Nye at:, or at: 240-204-4410.

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

Federal law prohibits any person from selling products subject to a Commission ordered recall or a voluntary recall undertaken in consultation with the CPSC.

For lifesaving information:

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