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Power Outage Safety: Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is urging residents across Michigan who were impacted by strong wind storms to take proper safety precaution if the power is out. Residents should be very careful when using gas-powered generators, kerosene heaters or other alternative heating or power sources during power outages. If not used safely, they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, tasteless, and odorless gas formed when fuel is burned. The only way to tell if it is present is with a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide can build up to deadly levels within minutes in enclosed spaces.

Warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion, but not a fever. Carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to coma and in extreme cases death. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning when the power is out:

  • NEVER run a generator inside your house or in your garage, and keep it away from windows and doors. (If theft is a concern, lock it to a tree or fence.)
  • NEVER use charcoal or propane grills or camp stoves indoors.
  • Do not use portable heaters powered by propane or kerosene inside.
  • Always turn off your vehicle in the garage.
  • Place a carbon monoxide detector in the hallway, outside bedrooms, or in all sleeping areas.

If you suspect you or a family member has carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately and call 911.  Additional preventive tips residents should follow if the power is out for an extended period of time are to:

  • Discard any potentially hazardous food (meat, dairy, eggs, cut melons, and cooked vegetables) that has been above 41º F for four hours or more, reached a temperature of 45º F or higher for any length of time, or has an unusual color, odor, or texture.
  • Check with local authorities to be sure your water is safe.
  • Wear layers of clothing to help keep in body heat.
  • Avoid power lines and use electric tools and appliances safety to prevent electrical shock.

For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning and poisoning prevention, visit www.michigan.gov/carbonmonoxide. To learn more about safety precautions during a power outage, visit http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/poweroutage/.