Winter storms in Maine are known to cause power outages. Utility crews may work to restore power in connection with an outage caused by one ice storm, only to have another wet snowfall cause a new power outage. Many Maine families use generators to compensate for these power outages. However, a recent study found that operating a generator for 18-plus hours may lead to high CO (carbon monoxide) exposures. It does not matter if the generator is placed in the garage. Generator use for a prolonged period leads to a higher rate of CO poisoning.
CO is an invisible killer. Portable generators produce a lot of CO. There have been 755 recorded deaths throughout the United States from CO poisoning associated with generators between the years of 1999 and 2011. Many of these fatalities occurred during power outages. Even though there are increasingly more striking warnings about the hazard of CO poisoning linked to generator use, homeowners continue to use portable generators, placing them wherever they feel is appropriate.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been working on a solution using computer simulations and now recommends the use of an engine with new technology that has a reduced CO emission rate. The reduction would delay and slow the worsening of symptoms, which would give occupants time to realize the danger and leave their houses. The CPSC noted that this was a complex task, in which all factors that could influence airflow were considered. Until use of such a new engine becomes widespread, there are numerous suggestions from the Red Cross on buying and using generators safely.
A critical consideration is the amount of power that will be needed by your equipment, appliances or lighting. Check the wattage of the light bulbs and the labels on your equipment. You need a generator that produces more power than all the equipment and other things that will be hooked up to it. Generators that do not produce enough power for everything should only be used for the equipment it is able to support — otherwise, you may blow a fuse or damage your equipment. A rotating schedule of equipment use may be necessary in those cases.
In addition to considering the power, you should be careful not to use a portable generator indoors. CO may build up in the house without you seeing or smelling it. The use of fans and opening windows does not make this problem better. You should also place the generator away from windows, doors and vents if you turn one on outdoors. It must be protected from moisture by placing it under a canopy of some kind. You should not touch it with wet hands and you should always let it cool down before refueling it, since gas on hot engine parts can catch fire.
If you plan to use a generator, you should install CO alarms. They can sound in the event CO gas floats into your house. The alarm’s battery may need to be periodically replaced.
One thing you should never do, according to the Red Cross, is to plug the generator into a wall outlet. This can cause electrocution to utility workers or neighbors using the same utility transformer. If you are concerned that you cannot keep your portable generator dry and working properly outdoors, it may be smarter to install a permanent stationary generator in case of the power outages that are so common during storms.
If you or someone you love is injured as a result of a defective generator, you may have legal recourse in the form of a product liability case. Your case will be better, however, if you followed all proper precautions to avoid injury in the first place.
If you or a loved one is injured due to somebody else’s negligence, you may need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to help determine appropriate theories of liability under Maine law. At Briggs & Wholey, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC at (888) 596-1099 or through our website today.
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