By Mike Sokol
As Part 2 of my series on staying safe in cold weather (you should remember last week’s article on portable space heater safety), it’s time to remind you all about the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from running a generator inside of (or even near) your house or RV.
But first, read this heartbreaking story from this past Sunday:
Two children and two adults died from carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday morning in Dallas, firefighters say. CBS Dallas/Fort Worth reports the Dallas Fire-Rescue responded to an emergency carbon monoxide call around 9:30 a.m. at a house under construction. The property owner, identified as Hector Medrano, made the call after he found two men and two children dead inside, according to The Associated Press.
Medrano said the two men were working on the house. The workers and the two children who belong to one of them slept in the house overnight. Both children are under 2 years of age. Identities have not been released.
They were using a generator, which was originally placed outside; however, someone tried to steal it. In response to the attempted crime, the men brought it inside the house to keep it safe. Firefighters said it’s unknown how long the generator was inside the house. It was on long enough to reach fatal levels, they said. The victims were found in the back bedroom, CBS DFW reports. The generator was found in a separate room.
So first of all, does everyone have an operational carbon monoxide alarm in their house/RV? If not, then get thee to a big box store and get one TODAY or you can get one on Amazon here.
Remember, not only can a generator create a fatal dose of CO, anything that burns can make this colorless, odorless gas that will lull you to sleep and kill you while you’re dreaming.
Secondly, NEVER place any kind of generator inside of an occupied structure, and that includes the porch or attached garage. All generators create carbon monoxide, and it takes surprisingly little time for it to build up.
Finally, a portable generator should be located at least 10 feet away from any windows on your house or RV. And never place it UNDER your RV to keep it safe from thieves and weather (which I have indeed seen more than once). While this may seem impractical in some situations, especially if you’re worried about someone stealing your expensive generator, then consider the possible consequences of sucking fumes in an unsealed window on your RV while you and your family sleep.
One possible solution that I’ve seen a few times is to locate the generator in the bed of the tow vehicle and chain it in place. Or put it in front of your truck on the ground and chain it to the bumper. That would seem to be a good solution to the stealing problem, plus it locates the generator far enough away from your RV to prevent CO infiltration.
Just remember, anything that burns any sort of fuel can generate deadly carbon monoxide gas, even catalytic propane heaters if something goes wrong. So a CO alarm is one of the best lifesaving investments you can make to protect yourself and your family.
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.