HOUSTON - Hurricane season starts in a couple of weeks. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says an average of 78 people dies each year from carbon monoxide poisoning from misusing portable generators. Their report finds African Americans are at the highest risk, accounting for 22% of the deaths.
Public affairs officer Karla Crosswhite-Chigbue says CPSC doesn't have data on why Black people are at higher risk but says it underscores the need for more education on generator safety for the Black community and everyone who uses them.
A generator can be a lifesaver when the power goes out, but also a risk.
"You have to make sure the generator is positioned outside the home. These are engine-powered products that produce carbon monoxide," said Aaron Jadgfeld, CEO of Generac.
Carbon monoxide is a gas that you can't see or smell.
"Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, headaches, fatigue, nausea. If you have any of those symptoms, get outside immediately and get fresh air. Then call 911 to get help," said Crosswhite-Chigbue.
Victims can easily fall unconscious and die.
And don't think putting a portable generator in the garage is any safer.
"Again, that's a very dangerous situation. Have them far enough away from the home, 40 to 50 feet away from the home," suggests Jadgfeld.
You don't want to bring a charcoal grill indoors either.
"Charcoal is another CO danger, so you never want to operate that or use charcoal in your home," said Crosswhite-Cigbue.
The CPSC urges you to have battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
"They should be on every level of your home, outside every bedroom, not just one bedroom or the parents' bedroom," she added.
Among other safety tips in a power outage, the CPSC also recommends having flashlights and batteries handy, rather than candles. And they say don't use appliances or electrical outlets that got wet in a storm.
"You want to get it checked out by a licensed electrician or your gas company or your electric company," said Crosswhite-Chigbue.
If you smell or hear gas, CPSC says do not turn lights on or off, or use electrical equipment, including a phone. Rather, leave the home and contact the gas company outside.
CPSC has more information on its Carbon Monoxide Safety Center.