Dangers Linger after Hurricane Irene Passes: What You Need to Know

Along with the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently issued a warning to consumers on the East Coast regarding the dangers that may be present in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

One of the biggest hazards consumers are warned about is carbon monoxide poisoning and portable generators. Following a severe storm such as a hurricane, many are experiencing a loss of electrical power, and may not have power for an indefinite period of time. According to CNN, approximately 3.3 million people on the East Coast are currently without power due to the devastation Irene has caused. Consequently, many will be using gas-powered generators in order to use lights, cook food, and other tasks.

The CPSC and the USFA warn consumers that they should never use a portable generator indoors or in a basement, garage, or shed, even if windows and doors are open. Generators should be kept outside and far away from doors, vents, and windows. The electrical cables used with generators should also be inspected to ensure they aren't damaged and are appropriate for outdoor use. The exhaust produced by generators contains high levels of carbon monoxide (CO), which can be deadly. Close to 600 generator-related CO deaths were reported to the CPSC between 1999 and 2010.

Consumers should also take similar precautions when using charcoal grills and camp stoves. CO alarms should also be examined to ensure they are in good working order. Care should also be exercised when around downed wires, as they may be live with high levels of voltage, which can be deadly. Consumers should be cautious not to operate or handle electrical appliances when standing in water to avoid electric shock and/or electrocution. Electrical components, such as circuit breakers, and other wiring in walls and outlets that have been submerged in water should not be turned on; instead, they should be replaced, unless an electrician has inspected and tested them.

Similar safety measures should be followed in regards to natural gas and propane valves that have been submerged in water. They should be replaced and/or inspected. If a gas leak is suspected, consumers are advised to immediately exit the residence, leaving the doors open. Before using the gas, the system should be checked by a professional to prevent an explosion.

With these precautions in mind, at The Beasley Firm, our attorneys hope everyone keeps alert and stays safe!