Gas generator in basement sickens three

Trio had severe exposure to carbon monoxide

Brian Schaeffer, Assistant Fire Chief, 509.625.7002

Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 7:12 a.m.

A gas-powered generator operating in the basement of home that had lost power sickened three Shadle area adults late Wednesday and sent them to a hospital for treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Spokane Fire Department urges people who are relying on portable generators for power following the massive wind storm to operate them outside of structures. Generators produce deadly carbon monoxide that builds up inside homes and other indoor spaces.

Exposure to carbon monoxide can be fatal. Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer because it is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, oil, kerosene, propane and natural gas. Products and equipment powered by internal combustion engines such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and snow blowers all produce carbon monoxide.

In one year alone the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported more than 90 generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning deaths. The majority of these deaths were known to have occurred during power outages due to severe weather.

The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are very similar to the flu, but without the fever. They include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. If you think you are experiencing any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, get outside to fresh air immediately. Leave the home and call your fire department to report your symptoms from a neighbor’s home. You could lose consciousness and die if you stay in your home.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Operate appliances according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered appliance in an enclosed space such as a garage
  • Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens or close dryers to heat your home
  • Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside your home or garage unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space

Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed inside your home. Carbon monoxide alarms are designed to alarm before potentially life-threatening levels of carbon monoxide are reached. Consumers should follow the manufactures instructions on placement and operation of these detectors.