In the wake of the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued warnings to residents of areas battered by the storm concerning some of the many life-threatening hazards they may face during disaster recovery.
Some of the more serious risks are associated with portable generators which will be used extensively in areas where the electricity has been knocked out by damaging winds and flooding.
The CPSC strongly warns consumers to never use a generator indoors including garages, basements, crawl spaces, and sheds even with ventilation.
Exhaust fumes contain extremely high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) which can rapidly become deadly if inhaled. Last year, numerous deaths from CO poisoning were reported throughout the Southeast as a result of generators used in the aftermath of the four major hurricanes that hit the region in 2004.
Consumers should only use a portable generator outdoors in a dry area away from doors, windows, and vents that can allow CO to come indoors.
Wait for the rain to pass before using a generator, since consumer-grade generators are not weatherproof and, thus, pose a serious risk of electrocution and shock when used in wet conditions.
The CPSC also suggests the following life-saving precautions:
·When using a generator, plug individual appliances into heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cords and plug the cords into the generator.
·Check that extension cords have a wire gauge adequate for the appliance loads and have all three prongs, including a grounding pin.
·Never store gasoline in the home or near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater, where gasoline fumes could be ignited.
·Never use charcoal inside homes, tents, campers, vans, cars, trucks, garages, or mobile homes. Burning charcoal in an enclosed space can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide very quickly.
·Make sure the batteries in your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm are always fresh. Test these alarms regularly to make sure they are in working condition.
·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. Replace all gas control valves, circuit breakers, and fuses that have been under water.
·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. Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish candles when you leave the room.
·Chain saws can be hazardous, especially if they “kick back.” To help reduce this hazard, make sure that your chain saw is equipped with a low-kickback chain. Always wear shoes, gloves, and protective glasses.