Be careful when using that portable generator

by Michael R. Cohen, R.Ph.

America’s poison centers are urging people in the path of Hurricane Sandy to exercise caution when using portable generators to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common poison-related cause of hospitalization and death in the wake of hurricanes, says the American Association of Poison Control Centers. It is called a “silent killer” because there are no odors or symptoms that signal a problem.

When people use generators improperly – too close to homes, in garages or outside bedroom windows – carbon monoxide can seep in and sicken or even kill. Open windows or outside garage doors do not provide adequate ventilation for generators or other gas-powered equipment.

Here are tips from the poison control centers for using portable generators safely: 


  • Carefully follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions for portable generators.
  • Never use portable generators indoors, in garages or near open windows.
  • Do not siphon gasoline by mouth to fill a generator with fuel.
  • Use battery-operated (or battery-backup) carbon monoxide alarms. Be sure to test the batteries.
  • If you experience sleepiness, dizziness, headaches, confusion, weakness or your carbon monoxide alarm sounds, immediately seek fresh air and call your poison center at 1-800-222-1222.


 Stay safe and dry.