Plan Ahead Before Using a Portable Generator

En Español

Ever been in this situation?

You’re at home during a storm and the power goes out. There are no lights and no television. Your cell phone is running out of power and the stove doesn’t work. The groceries you just bought are in the refrigerator, and it’s only a matter of time before they spoil. Depending on the time of year, there is no air conditioning or heat. You are desperate for relief. Electricity, please!

So you power up the portable gas generator.

CPSC is concerned about your safety and the safety of your family in this chaotic situation. Why?

Portable generators pump out DEADLY carbon monoxide (CO) in their exhaust. CO is called the invisible killer, because you cannot see or smell CO. In fact, CO from a generator can kill you in minutes.

That’s why you need to plan ahead before a storm and before you use a generator. A new report from CPSC reveals some frightening facts:

  • CPSC is aware of more than 740 people who died from carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators from 2004 to 2014.
  • Most of the generator-related CO deaths took place in fixed-structure homes.
  • In 70 percent of the deaths in fixed-structure homes, the generator was used inside the home’s living area, including the basement, closets and doorways – exactly where a generator should NEVER be used.
  • In 25 percent of the deaths in fixed-structure homes, the generator was used inside the garage – another place where a generator should NEVER be used.
  • African Americans or non-Hispanic blacks made up 24 percent of generator-related CO deaths. That’s nearly double the proportion of African Americans in the U.S. population.

Generators should NEVER be used inside a house, garage, shed or other enclosed space — even if doors and windows are open. The ONLY place a generator should be used is OUTSIDE, at least 20 feet away from your house and away from doors, windows and vents.

We found other interesting facts about generator-related CO deaths:

  • The weather plays a big role in power outages. Weather-related power outages are the top reason for generator use that leads to generator-related CO deaths.
  • Nearly half of the reported generator-related fatalities happened in the coldest months of the year: November, December, January and February.
  • The second most common reason for generator use in the reported CO fatalities is the power being shut-off by the power company.

These are alarming findings. CPSC urges you to plan well in advance before you use a generator. MAKE SURE TO USE GENERATORS OUTSIDE ONLY – AT LEAST 20 FEET FROM YOUR HOUSE. Don’t let a storm take you by surprise. Prevent this invisible killer from taking any more lives.

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