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How safe are those back-up generators?

Sunday - 10/6/2013, 7:27pm  ET

Safety tips for home generators

WTOP's Paula Wolfson reports

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WASHINGTON - Just how safe are those back-up generators?

We got a reminder over the weekend when a carbon monoxide leak from a generator in a Bethesda apartment building sent more than a dozen people to the hospital.

A man had been working on the generator in the basement, a perfect prescription for trouble.

Assistant Chief of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Scott Graham says generators should never be used in closed or unventilated areas.

He says lot of people are buying back-up generators for their homes for use during power outages.

"The most important thing to know is they need to be operating outside of a living or storage dwelling," he says.

Graham says carbon monoxide is nothing to mess with, calling it "a silent killer."

He says a generator running in an enclosed area can create fumes that are colorless and odorless, and people don't realize they are dealing with toxic levels of carbon monoxide.

To protect you and your family from an accident, keep a generator a safe distance away from the house, and make sure each level of your home has a carbon monoxide detector, which can be purchased in combination with a smoke detector. You'll also want to check the detectors regularly.

Graham says a good rule of thumb is to check the batteries when you change your clocks from daylight savings time to standard time, and back again.

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