1 dead from carbon monoxide poisoning as people turn to generators amid ongoing power outages: HFD

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Monday, May 20, 2024
1 dead from carbon monoxide poisoning as people turn to generators amid ongoing power outages
One person has died from carbon monoxide poisoning amid ongoing power outages. Officials are giving reminders about using generators safely at home.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- One person died from carbon monoxide poisoning amid the ongoing outages and recovery from last week's storm, Houston Fire Department Chief Sam Peña said.

Peña was among the officials giving updates Sunday as residents without power eagerly look to have theirs restored.

Some places aren't expected to be restored until Wednesday, according to an outage tracker map from CenterPoint Energy.

The ongoing outages mean that people might turn to portable generators, especially as humidity this week could make it feel like it's 100 degrees outside and people are without air conditioning.

Harris County officials also said over the weekend that the number of calls for carbon monoxide has increased, responding to 44 in one day.

Along with carbon monoxide poisoning, other concerns with using a generator include electrocution or electric shock and fire.

It's why officials are sharing reminders to keep generators and fuel outside.

"If you're going to use a generator, use it outside. Use it at least 20 feet from structures. Don't run it inside the garage, even if the doors are open. It needs to be outside because it doesn't take long for carbon monoxide to accumulate inside the home," Peña said.

Here are more tips from FEMA.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Do not assume that you are safe. Carbon monoxide from generators is completely colorless and odorless, so you won't know if it's there. It could kill your family and your pets.
  • Do not use a generator indoors or in partially enclosed spaces- including homes, garages, and crawl spaces - even those areas with partial ventilation.
  • Do not operate near open doors and windows. Using fans will not prevent carbon monoxide build-up in the home.
  • Install battery-powered carbon monoxide alarms inside your home to alert you of dangerous levels. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommended placement.

Electrocution or electric shock

  • Always connect the generator to appliances with heavy-duty extension cords.
  • Hooking up your generator directly into your home power supply could increase the voltage or could cause a surge to the outside power lines and potentially injure or electrocute an unaware utility lineman. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices. Connecting the generator to your home could cause a surge in electricity that might result in injury or death to yourself or your family.
  • Use a qualified electrician to install the appropriate equipment in accordance with local electrical codes or ask your utility company to install an appropriate power transfer switch.


  • Keep your generator outside and fuel your generator outside.

  • Do not store fuel for your generator in your house. Gasoline, propane, kerosene, diesel and other flammable liquids should be stored outside living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers.
  • Do not store fuel near a fuel-burning appliance, for example, a gas stove.
  • If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and be ignited by the appliance's pilot light or by arcs from electric switches.
  • Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline or other flammable liquids spilled on hot engine parts could ignite, and invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and be ignited by the generator's pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.

Remember, carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless.

You should install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas, the American Red Cross advises.

If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get fresh air right away and remain in that fresh air location to call for help. Leave right away to get fresh air if your carbon monoxide alarm sounds.