Safety Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning During Bad Weather
The New Jersey Poison Information & Education System offers potentially life-saving advice.
Editor's Note: The following is a news release issued by The New Jersey Poison Information & Education System.
Another storm is heading our way and expected to begin during our commute home this evening. Although this may not be as severe as Sandy, the New Jersey Poison Experts are warning the public to take the necessary steps to make sure the storms pass as safely as possible.
During bad weather, it is not uncommon for homes and offices to experience power outages. Residents tend to close down their homes and frequently bring items indoors that are potentially more dangerous than the bad weather outside. After the storm passes, area flooding will leave many residents with significant damage to their homes and businesses.
Portable generators and other gasoline powered equipment are often used during the cleanup process, but using them indoors is dangerous and potentially poisonous.
The poison experts assisted in over 108 calls related to carbon monoxide during Tropical Storm Sandy. The greatest number of exposures reported occurred in Monmouth County followed by Essex, Bergen and Middlesex.
The exposures appeared to be related to the use of a generator in 39 instances with 9 located outside but close to the house (closer than the suggested 25 feet), 2 were located in the basement and 28 in the garage. Seventeen calls concerned possible exposures from the use of stoves or space heaters, 22 to charcoal/propane grills, 5 faulty heating systems, 3 fireplaces, 5 either unspecified or other (one bonfire), and in 15 calls a carbon monoxide detector alert went off but no source was found.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is often referred to as the Silent Killer because it is a gas that gives no warning – you can’t see it, smell it or taste it. When the gas is breathed into the body it combines with the body’s blood and prevents it from absorbing oxygen. Since this gas is easily detected with an installed and fully functional carbon monoxide detector, the NJ Poison experts highly recommend that everyone install carbon monoxide detectors in his or her home.
Exposure to carbon monoxide can produce headaches, sleepiness, fatigue, confusion and irritability at low levels. At higher levels, it can result in nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision and coordination, and death.
With the potential threat of power outages, it is important to be careful about food stored in refrigerators and freezers. Food-borne illness, also known as food poisoning, results from the eating of food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses or other foreign material. Contamination is caused by improper food handling and preparation practices. The symptoms of food-borne illness are flu-like and may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever.
Safety Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning During Bad Weather:
- Do not bring portable gas powered generator into the home or garage –
- Do not place them outside near any open windows/doors
- They should be at least 25 feet from any house.
- Do not bring other gas powered equipment, propane stoves, propane lights, kerosene camping stoves, or charcoal grills into the house or garage.
- Do not heat your home with your stove.
- DO not cook with charcoal indoors.
- DO NOT idle a car in a closed garage. Once you pull in, immediately turn off the engine.
- DO check the batteries on your carbon monoxide detector. If you don’t have a detector, install one before the bad weather hits.
- DO keep your home well ventilated. If need be, keep a window slightly cracked to allow air flow.
- DO have a flash light with fresh batteries ready to use (you may have used the flashlight during Sandy, replace the batteries if you did)
- DO have a battery-operated radio available and be sure the batteries are fresh.
Safety Tips to Prevent Food Spoilage During a Power Outage:
- In preparing for a power outage, make the temperature colder than usual on both freezers and refrigerators. This will prolong the cold after a power outage.
- During a power outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed and open them only when necessary.
- Place a refrigerator thermometer in the center of the middle shelf and check the temperature. If it has risen to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, discard any potentially spoiled foods. Such foods include meat, poultry, fish, dairy and egg products, soft cheese, cooked beans, cooked rice, cooked potatoes, cooked pasta, potato salad, custard and pudding.
- Fill freezers to capacity, but refrigerators need room for air to circulate.
- When power is restored, allow time for the refrigerator to reach below 40 degrees Fahrenheit before restocking.
- "When in doubt, throw it out!"
If you suspect Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Take Immediate Action:
- If your loved one is not breathing, unconscious/unresponsive, bleeding profusely, seizing/convulsing, etc. Call 911 immediately.
- Exit the house/building immediately. Do not waste time opening windows to “air” it out; this will delay your escape and cause you to breathe in more dangerous fumes.
- Contact your local fire department/energy provider.
- Call the NJ Poison Experts, 800-222-1222, for immediate treatment advice. Do not waste time looking for information on the internet about carbon monoxide poisoning. Call us for fast, free and accurate information.
Help is Just a Phone Call Away
If someone is unconscious, not breathing, seizing/convulsing, bleeding profusely, difficult to arouse/wake up, etc. call 911 immediately, otherwise call the poison center at 800-222-1222. Doing online research and learning about medical conditions is a new sign of the times and a must-do for a savvy patient. But savvy patients need to know when it’s important to put down the smartphone and dial an emergency number to get help.
The NJ Poison Experts are always here to help with emergencies or questions involving medicines, chemicals or household products, etc. Help is available in over 150 languages; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. Program the Poison Help line (800-222-1222) into your cell phone and post it near your home and office phones too.
There are no silly questions and our health professionals are always available to answer a question, quell a fear, provide advice, or intervene to get emergency services on site and prepped to provide the needed protocol in the fastest response time. When in doubt, check it out - Prevention is truly the best possible medicine. Remember, Help is Just a Phone Call Away!