The Erie County Department of Health today offered advice to homeowners considering using alternative methods to heat their homes in the event of a power outage caused by the winter storm.
“Everyone needs to be mindful of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Dr. Gale Burnstein, Erie County’s health commissioner. “Improper use of generators or portable space heaters can silently poison you and your family without your knowledge. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that can literally kill you in minutes. It is invisible, tasteless, odorless and non-irritating which is why taking proper precautions is vital and having sufficient working CO detectors in your home is critical.”
Burstein added, “The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms. Carbon monoxide can build up so quickly that victims are overcome before they can get help. Leave your home immediately if your CO detector sounds and call 911.”
The department suggests:
• When using portable generators, never use them indoors and make sure they are at least 20 feet away from your dwelling.
• Never use your oven or range to heat your home.
• Never use a charcoal grill, camp stove or other charcoal-burning or gasoline-powered device inside your home, basement, garage or near a window.
• Never idle a car in the garage.
• Never sleep in rooms where unvented gasoline or kerosene heaters are present.
• When using a space heater, be mindful that some types of kerosene and propane portable space heaters get hot enough to ignite nearby draperies, carpet, paper, clothing or furniture. Check them periodically to see if they feel hot. Use models that have an automatic shutoff device that turns the heater off if it tips over or becomes too hot.
• Check or change the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors every six months.
• If you do not have a battery-powered or battery-backup carbon monoxide detector, make buying one a priority.