Orange County Urges Residents to Take Precaution When Using Portable Generators

Community & Services Public Health & Safety

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs in partnership with Orange County Fire Rescue, held a briefing on generator safety in the wake of Hurricane Irma recovery.

“I was absolutely heartbroken to learn of the three deaths in Orange County resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning related to the use of an emergency generator. Every life is so deeply valued, and I can only imagine the suffering of the families who have sustained this terrible loss,” Mayor Jacobs said.

“On behalf of our entire Orange County region, I share my deepest condolences with all those who are grieving, as well as our prayers for those who are recovering. Together with all Floridians and countless others worldwide, we join in mourning this tragic loss. Sadly, Orange County is not alone, as neighboring counties have also suffered the loss of life due to carbon monoxide poisoning. As we continue to recover from Hurricane Irma, I’m asking all Central Floridians to please be sure to observe safety procedures and do not use generators inside your home, your garage, or your business.”

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), here are tips for safely using generators:

  • Follow the instructions that come with your generator. Never use a generator indoors or in partially enclosed spaces, including homes, garages, basements and crawl spaces – even those with partial ventilation. Never run a generator in areas where people or animals are present. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent carbon monoxide build-up in the home. Place the generator away from open windows.
  • Don’t assume that you are safe. Carbon monoxide fumes emitted by gasoline engines can be fatal, often without the victims – especially those who are sleeping – ever realizing the danger. You cannot smell or see carbon monoxide. So even if you do not smell exhaust fumes, you may be exposed. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air immediately. The carbon monoxide from generators can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death. If you experience serious symptoms, get medical attention right away and inform medical staff that carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected. If the symptoms occurred while indoors, call the fire department to determine if it is safe to re-enter the building.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms inside your home to warn when carbon monoxide levels from any source pose a serious health risk. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended placement.
  • Always connect the generator to the appliances with heavy-duty extension cords. Hooking up your generator directly into your home power supply could energize the outside power lines and potentially injure or electrocute an unwary utility lineman. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices. If you must connect the generator through the house wiring to power appliances, use a qualified electrician to install the appropriate equipment in accordance with local electrical codes. Or, ask your utility company to install an appropriate power transfer switch.
  • Never store fuel for your generator in your house. Gasoline, propane, kerosene, and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers. Do not store them near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage. If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and be ignited by the appliance’s pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance. Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite, and invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and be ignited by the generator’s pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.
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