Don't make these power failure mistakes

Here are tips to keep safe during a power failure in winter.

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Winter storms can cause power failures and that makes the Washington State Department of Health nervous that some people will use barbecues or gas generators for indoor heat.

That's a big risk to families who could be sickened and even die from carbon monoxide poisoning, said Gordon MacCracken, communications spokesman, in a press release.

It's crucial to use generators safely and never use those or charcoal-burning devices indoors, he said. Carbon monoxide detectors provide additional protection, but don't replace prevention.

Here are some absolutes from the DOH:

  • Gas-powered generators should never be used indoors, and should be placed well away from open windows and vents.
  • Charcoal briquettes should never be burned indoors for heat or cooking.
  • Gas ovens shouldn't be used as an indoor heat source, even for a short time.


"The importance of preventing carbon monoxide poisoning is too often shown with the sad news of people getting sick and even dying," said state Secretary of Health, Mary Selecky. "A carbon monoxide detector can help. Remember, if you have friends, family, or neighbors who are without power, be sure they're not burning charcoal or running a generator indoors."

Sources of carbon monoxide include blocked chimney flues and gas or kerosene heaters; never burn charcoal in a fireplace. An attached garage is a part of your home. Carbon monoxide fumes can seep-in from generators or idling cars, so don't run either of them in the garage.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that cannot be seen or smelled and can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned.

The gas can build up so quickly that victims are overcome before they can get help. Once inhaled, carbon monoxide can cause permanent brain damage, chest pains or heart attacks. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, weakness, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, and nausea. For more information, go to www.doh.wa.gov.

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