Need-to-know info. for area residents using generators

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – If people without power are using a generator at home, knowing proper safety procedures could mean the difference between life and death.

Three people who were inside a home in north Laurel went to the hospital Tuesday with carbon monoxide poisoning.

“One was in life-threatening condition, the other two were in serious condition and it was the result of a generator running inside the home,” says Jackie Cutler, spokeswoman for the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. “The level of carbon monoxide in the home was more than 30 times the normal average. We got a call from one of the residents in the home (a woman) – the men in the home were actually unconscious.”

Howard County’s Department of Fire and Rescue Services is one of the few fire departments in the state to use a wearable piece of equipment called GasBadge, which can be very helpful in these kind of situations.

“It’s a detector that’s designed to specifically sound an alarm in the presence of carbon monoxide,” Cutler says.

Howard County fire crews got an anonymous tip Wednesday that someone in Ellicott City was running a generator in their home.

After correcting the problem in that home, investigators canvassed the neighborhood and found two other homes where generators were being used improperly.

“A generator needs to be at least 15 feet away from the home in order to be operated safely,” says Cutler.

She says leaving a generator in a garage with the garage door open is still risky, because fumes can still get inside of the home.

Cutler thinks part of the problem is that some people are using a generator for the first time in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Read more about generator safety here and GasBadge here.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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