PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
September 26, 2014

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Christie Administration Reminds Residents to Follow Generator Safety Guidelines

As part of National Emergency Preparedness Month, New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd reminds residents who use portable generators during power outages to follow manufacturers' guidelines and safety precautions to reduce the risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use, refueling or storage of generators.

"In the weeks and months following Superstorm Sandy, we saw five carbon monoxide (CO) deaths in New Jersey due to the improper use of portable generators," said Commissioner O'Dowd. "As we are in the midst of hurricane season and with cooler weather approaching, now is a good time for everyone to learn about the correct and safe way to use a portable generator. CO poisoning is called the "silent killer" because it gives no warning - you can't see it and you can't smell it."

In the two weeks following Superstorm Sandy, 398 patients were treated for CO exposure in New Jersey's Emergency Departments, while only 14 patients were treated for exposure in the two weeks prior to the storm.

In the two months following Sandy, the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) received 448 Sandy related calls. Of these calls, 324 were related to exposure to CO or contact with possibly toxic substances. Nationally, 81 people die each year due to CO poisoning from the use of a generator.

Exposure to CO can produce headaches, sleepiness, fatigue, confusion and irritability at low levels. At higher levels, it can result in nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision and coordination and death. 

If you are using a generator and suspect CO poisoning take immediate action including: 

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately if a person is not breathing, is unconscious or unresponsive, or is having seizures or convulsions
    Exit the home/building/enclosed space immediately
    Contact your local fire department
    From a safe area, call the NJ Poison Experts at 1-800-222-1222, for immediate treatment advice.

    Safety tips when using generators include:
  • Never run a generator within a basement, garage or any enclosed or partially enclosed structure because the accumulation of carbon monoxide can be fatal
  • Never position a generator close to windows and doors
    Use battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms. Test and change the batteries regularly
    Never connect a generator directly to home wiring unless your home has been wired for generator use. This can cause backfeeding along power lines and electrocute anyone coming in contact with them, including line workers making repairs
    Always plug appliances directly into generators
    Use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords. Make sure extension cords are free of cuts or tears and the plug has three prongs.
    Ensure your generator is properly grounded
    Never overload a generator. A portable generator should only be used when necessary to power essential equipment or appliances
    Turn off all equipment powered by a generator before shutting it down
    Keep the generator dry. Operate it on a dry surface under an open structure
    Always have a fully charged fire extinguisher nearby
    Never fuel a generator while it is operating and wait until it is cool to the touch
    Read and adhere to the manufacturer's instructions for safe operation

    For more information on generator safety, please visit: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/co/generator.shtm

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Last Reviewed: 9/26/2014