Carbon Monoxide from Generators Can Kill in Minutes
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Tropical Storm Ian moves out of Florida and approaches Georgia and the Carolinas, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is alerting consumers in the path of this dangerous storm about the risks of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from portable generators and other post-storm hazards. Preparing in advance of Tropical Storm Ian is crucial, but planning for the storm’s aftermath is also critical.
Loss of Power—Using a Generator Safely
Consumers need to be especially careful when storms knock out electrical power. Portable generators create a risk of CO poisoning that can kill in minutes. CO is called the invisible killer because it is colorless and odorless. Exposed persons may become unconscious before experiencing the milder CO-poisoning symptoms of nausea, dizziness or weakness.
CPSC estimates that about 85 consumers die in the U.S. each year from CO poisoning from portable generators.* A recent CPSC report, Fatal Incidents Associated with Non-Fire Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Engine-Driven Generators and Other Engine-Driven Tools 2011-2021, shows that African Americans are at higher risk, accounting for 23 percent of generator-related CO deaths, nearly double their estimated 13 percent share of the U.S. population.
In the case of a power outage, follow these important life-saving tips:
- Never operate a portable generator inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or shed. Opening doors or windows will not provide enough ventilation to prevent the buildup of lethal levels of CO.
- Operate portable generators outside only, 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, while keeping windows and other openings closed in the path of the generator’s exhaust. Do not operate a generator on an outside porch or in a carport. They are too close to the home.
- Watch our new public service announcement (PSA) on generator safety. (English, Spanish)
- Check that portable generators have been maintained properly, and read and follow the labels, instructions, and warnings on the generator and in the owner’s manual.
- Look for portable generators that have a CO shut-off safety feature, which is designed to shut the generator off automatically when high levels of CO are present around the generator. Some models with CO shut-off features also have reduced emissions. These models may be advertised as certified to the latest safety standards for portable generators–PGMA G300-2018 and UL 2201–which are estimated to reduce deaths from CO poisoning by 87% and 100%, respectively.
Check CO and Smoke Alarms
- Install battery-operated CO alarms or CO alarms with battery backup on each level and outside separate sleeping areas at home. Interconnected CO alarms are best; when one sounds, they all sound. A CO alarm is your last line of defense when using a generator–it can save your life!
- Make sure smoke alarms are installed on every level and inside each bedroom at home.
- Test CO and smoke alarms monthly to make sure they are working properly, and replace batteries, if needed. Never ignore an alarm when it sounds. Get outside immediately. Then call 911.
Dangers with Charcoal and Candles
- Never use charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal in an enclosed space can produce lethal levels of CO. 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.
Dangers with Wet Appliances:
- Look for signs that your appliances have gotten wet. Do not touch wet appliances that are still plugged into an electrical source.
- Before using your appliances, have a professional or your gas or electric company evaluate them for safety. Replace all gas control valves, electrical wiring, circuit breakers and fuses that have been under water.
Dangers with Gas Leaks:
- If you smell or hear gas leaking, leave your home immediately and contact local gas authorities from outside the home. Do not operate any electronics, such as lights or phone, before leaving.
Remember, stay informed, be prepared and keep safe!
Link to broadcast quality video for media:
- Hurricane Safety b-roll: https://spaces.hightail.com/space/XtFQ7YqK0x
- Flood safety b-roll: https://spaces.hightail.com/space/thCBWTX157
CPSC spokespeople are available for interviews. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240-204-4410 to arrange for an interview.
*Annual average for the number of reported fatal non-fire CO exposure deaths associated with generators each year from 2017-2019, the last three complete years of the full report (2011-2021). (Report/Table 3)
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: