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Winter Power Outages and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Texas has been suffering from unprecedented power outages for millions as the winter storm rages on unabated. More distressing are reports that there have been hundreds of carbon monoxide poisoning cases across the state as people try creative ways to heat their homes without electricity and gas.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that is generated from combustion, and if a fire is lit inside an enclosed space, carbon monoxide will easily build up over time to dangerous levels. Reports have stated that people have perished or have become seriously ill by staying inside their cars in an enclosed garage, using propane grills indoors, and bringing gasoline generators inside to power appliances.

Carbon monoxide is dangerous due to several factors:

  1. It has poor warning properties (no odor).

  2. Due to the size of the carbon monoxide molecule it can easily penetrate drywall and permeate throughout the house.

  3. Carbon monoxide mixes easily with air inside an enclosed space.

Common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning (More Information from the CDC):

  1. Dizziness and headaches

  2. Weakness

  3. Upset stomach and vomiting

  4. Chest pain

  5. Confusion

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning at home:

  1. Do not use any flame producing heating devices or grills indoors (also do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors).

  2. Do not use combustion based generators indoors.

  3. Do not idle cars inside enclosed garages or other enclosed spaces.

  4. Fireplaces are generally safe, however, ensure the chimney is not blocked by debris which can trap carbon monoxide inside the home, and do not overfill the fireplace as house fires may result as sparks jump out.

  5. Ensure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are properly installed throughout the home and properly maintained (smoke detectors do not detect carbon monoxide unless explicitly stated to be a combination smoke/CO unit).

  6. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms that are hard wired must have the backup battery changed out once a year.

  7. Ensure all gas appliances inside the home are maintained by qualified vendors and vented properly.

Please follow the above steps to protect yourself as well as your family from carbon monoxide poisoning in the event of a power outage.


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