Sandy's deadly aftermath
US authorities have warned consumers need to use great caution during a loss of electrical power, as the risk of carbon monoxide, poisoning from portable generators, fire from candles, and electrical shock from downed power lines can be deadly.
Hurricane Sandy is a massive, slow moving storm that has left millions of Americans along the East Coast without electricity. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) are warning residents in hurricane-impacted areas about the deadly dangers that still remain as Hurricane Sandy tracks north.
Consumers need to use great caution during a loss of electrical power, as the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from portable generators, fire from candles, and electrical shock from downed power lines increases.
In order to power lights, keep food cold or cook, consumers often use gas-powered generators. CPSC, FEMA, and USFA warn consumers never to use portable generators indoors, in basements, garages, or close to a home. The exhaust from generators contains high levels of carbon monoxide (CO), greater than that of multiple cars running in a garage, which can quickly incapacitate and kill.
"Our goal is to save lives and prevent further disasters in the aftermath of Sandy," said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. "Never run a generator in or right next to a home. Carbon monoxide is an invisible killer. CO is odorless and colorless and it can kill you and your family in minutes.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those in the Mid-Atlantic states who've been affected by this storm. We strongly encourage all of those in affected areas to stay indoors, in a safe location and to continue to monitor conditions," said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.
"As the federal government continues to support the life-saving efforts of state, tribal and local officials, individuals need to do their part and remain out of harm's way. Do not try to return home until local officials give the all clear.
"We know from experience as victims try to recover from disasters, they will take unnecessary risks with candles, cooking and generators. These risks often result in additional and tragic life safety consequences," said U.S. Fire Administrator Ernie Mitchell.
"When you consider the challenges faced by firefighters and their departments to also recover from the same disasters, it is important that all of us remember even the simplest of fire safety behaviors following disasters of any type."
Deaths involving portable generators have been on the rise since 1999 when generators became widely available to consumers. There have been at least 755 CO deaths involving generators from 1999 through 2011. While reporting of incidents for 2011 is ongoing, there were at least 73 CO related deaths involving generators last year. The majority of the deaths occurred as a result of using a generator inside a home's living space, in the basement or in the garage.