Thursday, July 31, 2008
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State fire marshal warns about generator dangers

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[July 31, 2008]  SPRINGFIELD -- In the wake of a recent Coal Valley house fire caused by the improper use of a gas-fueled generator, State Fire Marshal David B. Foreman is reminding residents of the dangers associated with generators and is urging homeowners to keep safety in mind when using them.

"While generators are very convenient and tend to ease stress during power outages, they can also be very dangerous if not used properly," Foreman said. "Not only do they pose a fire risk, generators can also put off the toxic gas carbon monoxide if not used and/or ventilated properly."

In 2007, fire departments across the state responded to 7,045 carbon monoxide-related calls. That same year, generators caused six fires in Illinois, causing nearly $150,000 in direct property damage.

Each year numerous deaths are reported across the country from carbon monoxide poisoning due to the use of a portable, gas-fueled generator inside a structure during a power outage. The fire marshal strongly advises against using gas-fueled generators inside a home or other building.

"After learning of several fatal CO poisoning incidents in Washington and Oregon due to generators being used inside the home, we pushed to pass a law requiring certain homes to be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2007," Foreman explained.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas that is produced when fossil fuels -- such as natural gas, gasoline, wood, coal, propane, oil and methane -- are burned incompletely. Furnaces, hot water heaters, stoves and fossil-fueled space heaters are among the potential indoor sources of carbon monoxide. In addition, homes with attached garages can allow carbon monoxide into the home when vehicles are left running inside the garage.

The fire marshal offers the following tips to keep your family and loved ones safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide:

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors inside your home. Under Illinois' carbon monoxide detector law, signed by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich in 2006, all buildings that use fossil fuels and have sleeping rooms or have an attached garage must have an approved, operating carbon monoxide detector installed within 15 feet of any sleeping area. Homes that have all electric appliances and do not have a fireplace or an attached garage are exempt from the requirements.

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  • Test carbon monoxide alarms at least once a month and replace alarms according to the manufacturer's instructions. A good rule of thumb is to change carbon monoxide and smoke detector batteries when you change your clocks according to daylight saving time.

  • Have fuel-burning equipment inspected by a professional every year.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends the following tips for proper use of portable generators:

  • Generators should be operated in well-ventilated locations outdoors, away from all doors, windows and vent openings.

  • The generator should be located so that exhaust fumes cannot enter the home through windows, doors or other building openings.

  • Do not refuel the generator while it is running. Turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling.

  • Never store fuel for your generator in your home. Gasoline and other flammable liquids should be stored in properly labeled safety containers outside of living areas. Flammable liquids should be stored away from any fuel-burning appliance such as a gas hot water heater.

  • Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord. Make sure the cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. Do not try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet.

[Text from Office of the State Fire Marshal file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]


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