Hurricane Sandy has already left 50 dead and millions without power across 17 states. U.S federal agencies are advising people to take precautions even after Hurricane Sandy moves north as fires from faulty generators; higher levels of Carbon monoxide can cause significant damage.
Use of generators has caused more than 700 deaths between 1999 and 2011. Majority of deaths have occurred because these generators were used in living spaces, basements or garages.
"Our goal is to save lives and prevent further disasters in the aftermath of Sandy. Never run a generator in or right next to a home. Carbon monoxide is an invisible killer. CO is odorless and colorless and it can kill you and your family in minutes," said Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Inez Tenenbaum.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate said that people should not return to homes until local officials have inspected the homes and given an "all clear".
"We know from experience as victims try to recover from disasters, they will take unnecessary risks with candles, cooking and generators. These risks often result in additional and tragic life safety consequences. When you consider the challenges faced by firefighters and their departments to also recover from the same disasters, it is important that all of us remember even the simplest of fire safety behaviors following disasters of any type," said U.S. Fire Administrator Ernie Mitchell.
Safety tips to be followed after the storm passes:
- Do not use portable generators indoors even if all doors and windows are kept open.
- Never use charcoal grills or stoves indoors. These generators can significantly increase levels of carbon monoxide in the house.
- Install CO alarms at home.
- Always keep distance from downed wires; they can still be live with deadly voltage. Never use any electrical appliance when you are standing in water. All wires and electrical outlets that have been under water must be replaced or should be used only after being inspected by qualified electrician.
- Natural gas or propane valves that have been under water should be replaced. If you suspect that gas is leaking from the valves, then get out of the house and leave the doors open. Call 9-1-1 and don't light a match as fire of any size can spark an explosion.
- Try to use only flashlights instead of candles. If you must, then never leave them unattended and never light one near objects that easily catch fire.