According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Laura, which made landfall along the Gulf Coast in late August, was the strongest hurricane to strike Louisiana to date with wind gusts of more than 150 mph and a dangerous storm surge that also affected parts of the Texas coast.
With extensive power outages across the state that are expected to last many weeks, many residents have turned to portable generators for relief. Recent news paints a grim picture, however, reporting that eight of the 15 deaths associated with Hurricane Laura were caused by the improper use of these generators. According to the Louisiana Department of Health, the deaths were a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, a colorless, odorless gas that can build up inside enclosed spaces.
Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards, said in a recent news conference, “We need people to be very safe and cautious when they run a generator.” In response, the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal announced that “search and rescue teams are making it a part of their mission to ensure people are using generators safely.”
NFPA has a safety tip sheet on portable generators that provides important steps for using a portable generator. The tip sheet can be downloaded for free and shared, and includes the following guidelines and more:
- Generators should be operated in well ventilated locations outdoors away from all doors, windows, and vent openings.
- Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.
- Place generators so that exhaust fumes can’t enter the home through windows, doors, or other openings in the building.
- Make sure to install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for correct placement and mounting height.
To date, Louisiana continues to tackle the damage to its grid infrastructure in the southwestern part of the state and restore power to the more than 250,000 residents still affected.
For answers to questions or concerns about a home’s electrical system due to the storm, contact a qualified electrician who can help, and visit NFPA’s electrical safety webpage for additional tips and resources.
Related information can be found on NFPA’s “emergency preparedness” webpage.