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Poison Center Helpline 1-800-222-1222

Generator Use and Carbon Monoxide

Frequently called the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide cannot be seen, smelled or tasted—and is very dangerous in high concentrations. Carbon monoxide poisonings are common during disaster situations due to improperly operated generators. The risk is further increased with power outages during periods of cold weather.

IPC encourages the public to be mindful of the increased risk for carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of generators during extended power outages. Generators can produce high, if not fatal, levels of carbon monoxide when used improperly.

Stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning with these tips:

  • Never use a generator indoors or in partially enclosed spaces like garages. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Do not locate generators near doors, windows, vents that attach to the side of the house or air conditioning units that could pull the carbon monoxide indoors.
  • Make sure the generator stays dry.
  • Use up-to-date battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms in your home.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using generators and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Test carbon monoxide alarms frequently.

IPC experts also recommend the following tips to avoid risks associated with alternative methods of heating a home due to power outages:

  • Do not use cooking equipment—such as grills, stoves, ovens, gas camp stoves or hibachis—for heating your home.
  • Do not leave the stove, fireplace or space heaters on while sleeping.

Carbon monoxide poisoning usually occurs slowly over a period of several hours; however, at very high concentrations, carbon monoxide can kill in minutes. If you believe you or someone you know is a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, seek fresh air immediately. Once out of immediate danger, call IPC at 1-800-222-1222 for treatment advice.