FEMA Issues Snow Storm Safety Tips

As the snowstorm continues to strike different parts of the country, the Federal Emergency Management Agency urges that citizens take the proper safety precautions to avoid life threatening situations.

During massive blizzards, there is a chance that power outages will occur, and most likely generators will be used as a backup source for power. FEMA warns that while generators may be useful, they are also very hazardous and can be life threatening due to carbon monoxide poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electrical fires and noise hazards.

According to Center for Disease Control, carbon monoxide poisoning kills hundreds of people a year, and sends thousands to the hospital for exposure, particularly during the winter season. Below are some tips, issued by FEMA on how to avoid life threatening situations when using a generator:

Avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Never use a generator indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages, crawl spaces and basements.
  • Make sure a generator has three to four feet of clear space on all sides and above it to ensure adequate ventilation.
  • Be cautious when using a generator outdoors to ensure it is not placed near doors, windows and vents, which could allow carbon monoxide poisoning to enter and build up in occupied spaces.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, nauseous, disoriented, losing muscle control or short of breath.  Do not re-enter the area until it is determined to be safe by trained and properly equipped personnel.

Avoiding electrical fires:

  • Keep a generator dry; do not use it in the rain or in wet conditions.  If needed, protect a generator with a canopy.
  • Dry your hands before touching the generator.
  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), especially around wet or damp locations. Extension cords with built-in GFCIs can be purchased at locations that sell electrical equipment.
  • Do not use electrical equipment that has been submerged in water.  Do not use any equipment that has strange odors or begins smoking.
  • Always plug electrical appliances directly into the generator using the manufacturer’s supplied cords or extension cords that are grounded (3-pronged).  Inspect the cord to make sure they are fully intact and not damaged.  Never use frayed or damaged extension cords.
  • Never attach a generator directly to the electrical system of a structure (home, office, trailer, etc.) unless a qualified electrician has properly installed the generator with a transfer switch.

Avoiding other fire hazards:

  • Make sure engine is turned off and has cooled down before refueling.
  • Gasoline and other generator fuels should be properly stored and transported in approved containers designed and marked for their contents, and vented.
  • Keep fuel containers away from flame-producing and heat-generating devices (such as the generator itself, water heaters, cigarettes, lighters and matches).  Do not smoke around fuel containers.