After storm dangers: Use generators safely, emergency officials warn

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As of Wednesday afternoon roughly 23,000 Floridians were without power due to Tropical Storm Elsa, and for the second day in a row, state officials warned of the dangers of improper power generator use.

“There have been more deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning over the last four years than there have been for direct impacts in storms in Florida, and we’ve had some significant storms,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Between 2015 and 2019, 228 Floridians lost their lives to carbon monoxide poisoning, a deadly odorless gas released from many things, including the exhaust of generators.

At the EOC in the state’s capitol county, News4Jax got a run down on some generator dos and don’ts.

“Most times during storms people put it in their garage. They think that that’s not a big deal, but you know, due to carbon monoxide poisoning we want to make sure that they’re 20 feet away from your garage space. You know, in an open well-ventilated area,” said Sarah Cooksey, Public Information Officer for the Tallahassee Fire Department.

That includes away from windows and vents.

“Make sure it’s in a flat space. You want to make sure that it’s completely cooled off before you put fuel in it. You know, if it’s still hot that’s obviously a fire hazard,” said Cooksey.

If you do place a generator in an unsafe spot, be aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning.

“Being pale, sweaty, having a hard time breathing,” said Cooksey.

Because carbon monoxide is odorless, you should install a carbon monoxide detector in your home, so you can be alerted if there is a gas leak.

Call poison control if you are experiencing any symptoms of CO poisoning.

One of the most common mistakes however, isn’t related to the dangerous emissions, but rathe, plugging a generator directly into a wall outlet.

“This is what’s called back feeding and when you do that it puts our linemen at risk when they go to re-hook the utilities back up,” said Cooksey.

Perhaps the most important tip: Learn how to properly use your generator before you’re in a situation where the lights go out.