Bracing for Hurricane Irene Could Lead to Hidden Dangers

Carbon monoxide caused 8 deaths, dozens treated for poisoning after 2003's Hurricane Isabel; Underscores importance of preparation/safety

Aug 24, 2011, 11:20 ET from Kidde

MEBANE, N.C., Aug. 24, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --

WHAT: As the East Coast braces for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, consumers are heading to home improvement stores to stock up on supplies, such as portable generators. With power outages likely during the aftermath of the hurricane, it's important to operate portable generators properly to protect your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide.

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The same was true in 2003 – the last time a major hurricane made landfall on the mid-Atlantic coast. Of the 40 deaths attributed to Hurricane Isabel, eight were caused by carbon monoxide. Moreover, dozens of people were treated for CO poisoning in the aftermath of the disaster.

Carbon monoxide is called the "silent killer." It is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control. You can't smell it, see it or taste it. It kills more than 400 people every year and sends more than 20,000 people to the emergency room. It does not discriminate – it randomly destroys lives and forever haunts survivors.

When portable generators, gas/charcoal grills and candles are used improperly, these items can significantly increase the risk of a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.  

HOW: Without a carbon monoxide alarm, you may never even know carbon monoxide is in the air, slowly doing its lethal work with every breath you take. Prevent problems before they happen. Here are some tips:

  • Install battery-operated CO alarms on every floor and in sleeping areas to protect your family during power outages.  
  • Only operate the generator outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home and protected from direct exposure to rain. Don't run portable generators on a porch, in an attached garage, basement or near an open window where wind could blow carbon monoxide fumes into the home.
  • Follow the manufacturers' instructions when using generators. Use the appropriate sized and type power cords. Overloaded or covered cords could overheat and cause fires.
  • Do not use a charcoal or gas grill inside your home or outside near a window where CO fumes could seep into your home.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the door open.
  • Ensure that storm debris hasn't blocked or sealed shut exhaust flues or ducts for appliances such as water heaters, ranges and clothes dryers, or blocked your vehicle's tailpipe, which could cause CO fumes to build up inside the vehicle.
  • Extinguish all candles before going to sleep and when leaving the house or a room where a candle is burning for a long period of time.

For more information on Kidde and fire/CO safety during a storm-related power outage, visit