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How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning after Hurricane Irma

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As Floridians begin to recover from Hurricane Irma, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) is urging people to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by taking precautions with portable generators, gas-powered appliances, and charcoal or gas grills.

Depending on the level of exposure, the DOH said carbon monoxide can cause fatigue, weakness, chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, loss of consciousness, and in the worst cases, death.

The DOH recommends the following tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Don't burn charcoal or gas grills inside a house, garage, vehicle, tent or fireplace.
  • NEVER use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home.
  • ALWAYS locate the unit outdoors on a dry surface, away from doors, windows, vents, and air conditioning equipment that could allow CO to come indoors. Follow the instructions that come with your generator.
  • Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, or CSA 6.19.01).
  • Test your CO alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.
  • Remember that you cannot see or smell CO and portable generators can produce high levels of CO very quickly.
  • If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY.
  • If you have a poisoning emergency, call your nearest Florida Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911 immediately.

For more information, contact your local county health department or visit the DOH's website or the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

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