Hurricane Preparedness: Simple Tips to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning During and After a Hurricane

Raleigh, N.C.

As North Carolinians prepare for hurricane season, officials with the North Carolina Division of Public Health caution you not to use gasoline-powered generators or tools, outdoor grills, and camp stoves in enclosed spaces. These devises should be used outside only and at least 20 feet away from windows, doors and air vents to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas produced whenever fuel is burned. In an enclosed space, such as a home, garage, car, or camper, carbon monoxide can build up to deadly levels quickly. Even low levels of carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headaches, confusion or fainting. If you are experiencing these symptoms, get to fresh air immediately and seek medical attention.

Carbon monoxide can be deadly within minutes. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal to anyone, especially children, pregnant women, older adults and/or those with chronic illness. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before ever becoming aware of their symptoms.

To stay safe:  

  • Do not use gasoline-powered tools, generators, or engines in enclosed or even partially enclosed spaces. Use them outdoors, at least 20 feet from doors, windows, and air vents.
  • Do not use charcoal grills or propane stoves indoors, even in a fireplace.  
  • Never use the stove or other gas appliances to heat your home.
  • Do not idle your car, truck, or other vehicle in the garage, even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up quickly in the garage and living area of your home.  
  • Install and maintain a carbon monoxide alarm in your home, preferably one for each level of your home. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation.
  • Keep rooms well ventilated.  

When buying a generator, make sure to buy or use the correct extension cord to allow the generator to be placed outdoors, at least 20 feet from doors, windows and air vents, and still have enough power to work correctly. For fuel-burning devices, read and follow instructions carefully, use the proper fuel and make sure there is enough air for ventilation and fuel burning.  

If you experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning including dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headaches, confusion or fainting, get to fresh air immediately and seek medical care.

For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning prevention, visit epi.publichealth.nc.gov/oee/a_z/co.html.

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