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Storm-related power outages can significantly increase the chance for a house fire or carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Items like generators, candles, and downed power lines all pose a risk. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says deaths involving portable generators have been on the rise since 1999 when they became widely available to consumers. The majority of these occur as a result of using a generator inside a home or attached garage. Ensuring that your home has working battery-operated CO and smoke alarms as well as fire extinguishers before a storm strikes and taking safety steps during a storm's aftermath could literally mean the difference between life and death.


The experts at Kidde recommend the following safety tips:


Before a Storm Strikes

  • Add at least one battery-operated, UL-listed smoke alarm, CO alarm, or combination smoke/CO alarm on every floor of your home and in sleeping areas. Consider purchasing alarms with a 10-year sealed-in lithium battery for continuous power and protection.

    • Kidde strongly recommends alarms with battery back-ups in case of power failure.

    • Test the batteries in your hardwired smoke alarms and replace if necessary.

  • Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher within reach in rooms where fires are most likely to start - the kitchen, garage, bedroom, living room, laundry room, and any room with a chimney. If you have an extinguisher, check the gauge to ensure it's charged. .

    • When choosing a fire extinguisher, bigger is always better. Larger fire extinguishers last longer, giving you more time to fight the fire and get to safety. Be sure you can physically handle the extinguisher you've purchased.

    • Read the instructions and know how to use the fire extinguisher before a storm hits and a fire breaks out. Acquaint yourself with the PASS system.

  • Ensure that fuel-burning appliances are properly installed and working according to the manufacturer's instructions. Inspect these appliances and ensure they are properly ventilated.

  • Ensure that fireplaces - wood burning and gas logs - are properly maintained.

  • Prepare a storm safety kit with necessary supplies. Visit ready.gov for more information.


During the Storm

These are good safety practices during a winter storm:

  • PLACE GENERATORS OUTDOORS: Install your generators outdoors at least 20 feet from the home with the generator exhaust pointing AWAY from the house. Operate generators and in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home and protected from direct exposure to rain. Follow the manufacturers' instructions when using generators.

  • Be careful with power cords: Use the appropriately sized/type power cords and never run them under rugs or carpets. Overloaded or covered cords could overheat and cause fires.

  • When operating space heaters, plug them directly into the outlet and not into an extension cord. Keep them at least 3 feet from anything flammable, including bedding, drapery, textiles, furniture, and more.

  • When using candles, keep the following in mind:

    • Consider flameless candles. A safe alternative to traditional wick candles are battery-operated flameless candles.

    • Keep traditional candles at least 12 inches from anything flammable. Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or the house, or when going to sleep.

    • Use battery-powered flashlights or lamps for light whenever possible.

  • Grill outdoors only: Place your grill at least 10 feet from the home and make sure it is clear of any vents that could carry any CO into the home.

  • Garage safety is an important consideration during a winter storm. Keep the following in mind:

    • Move idling cars out of the garage: When idling or running gasoline-powered automobiles, move them out of attached garages/porches and away from the home.

    • Keep grills, BBQs, hibachi, and other cooking equipment outside of the garage - even if the garage door is open, any CO being produced by the equipment may seep into the area and home.

  • Check flues and ducts: Ensure that storm debris hasn't blocked or sealed shut exhaust flues or ducts for chimneys and appliances such as water heaters, ranges, and clothes dryers, or blocked your vehicle's tailpipe, which could cause CO fumes to build up inside the vehicle.

  • Use a fire extinguisher to put out a small, self-contained fire when there is a clear exit behind you, or to create a path to safety when all exits or escape routes are blocked. Always call the fire department before you try and extinguish a fire yourself. Respect all fires, regardless of size. The main objective is safe escape.

  • If you suspect CO is present in the home, get to fresh air immediately and call 911.

DO NOT do the following during a winter storm:

  • operate a generator indoors. This includes in the home and/or in an attached garage, porches, or patios. Generators can emit as much carbon monoxide as 100 idling cars, so this is very dangerous!

  • use traditional wick candles near anything flammable. This includes drapery, furniture, bedding, carpets, rugs, and more.

  • grill or cook in an enclosed or attached garage. Even with the door open, there may not be enough oxygen to clear out any CO that may be in the environment. Do not use a charcoal or gas grill inside your home or outside near a window where CO fumes could seep into your home.

  • run your car in an attached garage, even if the garage door is open! Gasoline-powered cars can emit CO, so even with the door open, there may not be enough oxygen to clear out any CO that may be in the environment. Instead, pull your car away from the home at least 20 feet to ensure enough clearance.

  • burn anything in your fireplace or fire pit indoors that is not specifically designated as firewood. This includes furniture and other items that may have coatings that can create toxic smoke or burn more rapidly than firewood.

  • use ovens to heat your home, especially gas-powered ranges. This can be a fire and a CO safety risk.

  • use gasoline in place of kerosene. Keep combustible liquids away from heat sources and locked away from children.

  • be a hero. If you cannot extinguish a fire quickly, get outside and dial 911.


After the Storm

  • Extinguish all traditional candles.

  • Do not plug space heaters into an extension cord - always place space heaters directly into the outlet.

  • Ensure that storm debris hasn't blocked or sealed shut exhaust flues or ducts for chimneys and appliances such as water heaters, ranges, and clothes dryers, or blocked your vehicle's tailpipe, which could cause CO fumes to build up inside the vehicle.

  • During storm cleanup, place the pump and power unit of high-pressure washers outside and away from air intakes to the home to prevent CO fumes from seeping inside. Run only the wash line inside.

  • Test and check smoke and CO alarms to ensure they're operating properly, batteries are fresh, and the alarms are under the age of 10 years for smoke and 7-10 years for CO alarms.

  • Check the gauges of your fire extinguishers to ensure they're charged.