Devastating tornadoes hit US: Tips for staying safe after storms
Portable generators can 'create a risk of CO poisoning that can kill in minutes': CPSC
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is offering safety tips – including how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning – after devastating storms slammed parts of the U.S. this week.
"With another round of severe weather, including possible tornadoes, threatening multiple states this week, CPSC is urging consumers to take steps to protect themselves and their families against carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fires," the CPSC said.
On Wednesday, National Weather Service offices in several states issued warnings that more severe storms and possibly tornadoes could be expected.
This comes after dozens of people were killed by the tornadoes that ripped through a large swath of the U.S. over the weekend. The storms stretched from the South and the Midwest into the Northeast.
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Safety regulators listed five things people should keep an eye on following devastating storms, especially if they lose power.
1. Using a generator
Safety regulators say portable generators can create a risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning "that can kill in minutes."
The gas is "called the invisible killer because it is colorless and odorless," the CPSC said. "Exposed persons may become unconscious before experiencing CO-poisoning symptoms of nausea, dizziness or weakness, and it can lead to death."
Portable generators are only supposed to be operated outside, and they should be at least 20 feet from the house, the CPSC said. They shouldn't be operated on a porch or in a carport, either.
The generator's exhaust should also be directed away from the home. Any windows and other openings "in the path of the generator's exhaust" should also be closed, safety regulators continued.
Generators should also have a CO shut-off safety feature. The CPSC said this is designed to shut the generator off automatically when high levels of CO are present around the generator.
2. Carbon monoxide and smoke alarms
The CPSC said people should install battery-operated CO alarms or CO alarms with a battery backup on each level. They should be placed outside separate sleeping areas at home, the CPSC said.
Smoke alarms should also be installed on every level and inside each bedroom inside a home.
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Both CO and smoke alarms should be tested monthly.
3. Portable heaters
Portable heaters must be at least 3 feet from items that can easily catch fire such as beds, clothes, curtains, papers and sofas. They should also be placed on a stable surface.
They must be plugged into a wall outlet and not a power strip. The heater's cord should not ever run under rugs or carpeting. If the cord or plug gets hot, disconnect the heater, the CPSC said.
The heater shouldn't be near water, either.
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4. Charcoal and candles
The CPSC said never to use charcoal indoors because it "can produce lethal levels of CO." Consumers also shouldn't cook on a charcoal grill in a garage.
If possible, the CPSC says to use flashlights or battery-operated candles instead. Never use a candle near anything that can catch fire either, the CPSC said.
5. Gas leaks
If you smell or hear gas leaking, the CPSC advises leaving "your home immediately and contact local gas authorities from outside the home."
Do not operate any electronics, including lights, before leaving the home.