State officials are warning that many homes could lose power as Hurricane Irene makes a direct hit on parts of New York. Because many households will use generators -- a dangerous source of carbon monoxide -- as a power source, residents should take care when using the combustion-powered machine in and near their homes.
After Hurricane Ike in Texas in 2008, there were at least seven deaths and 50 storm-related carbon monoxide exposures, most of which were due to exposure of carbon monoxide from home generators. Deaths occurred within a few days of the hurricane, and victims included both children and adults.
In Texas, carbon monoxide exposure in children was associated with the children being in proximity to generators that were powering video games or televisions.
To avoid exposure to this dangerous and sometimes deadly poison, the Centers for Disease C ontrol (CDC) advises taking the following precautions:
Do not operate gas or propane-powered generators or other gas-powered equipment in enclosed spaces. Even with the garage door or windows open, ventilation of carbon monoxide is not adequate.
Do not use charcoal grills or barbecue grills indoors or in garages.
Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are installed and working properly. Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector installed in all sleeping areas/bedrooms. Change the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector every six months, just like you do with your smoke detector.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include: "Flu-like" symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting; dizziness, confusion, chest pain or loss of consciousness (in severe cases).
If you believe you or someone you know is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately move the affected person(s) to a fresh air environment. Call 911 and seek medical attention immediately. Do not ignore carbon monoxide detectors that alarm, especially during or after a storm.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.