The extreme cold and lack of electricity across Texas has pushed people to desperate measures, including a Houston woman and her 8-year-child who died of carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was left running in their garage to provide heat for their home.

A 7-year-old child and a man also in the home were taken to a hospital for treatment.

Sadly, there's a chance we could see more stories like this emerge, but not just from running vehicles indoors. Misusing your generator can also put you at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, and colorless gas that can cause sudden illness or death.

Every year 400 or more people die from vehicle-related accidental Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

Here are some safety tips to follow to prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, during this cold weather:

  • Check batteries to your Carbon Monoxide Detector in all areas of your home, at least twice a year, and change detectors every 6-10 years.
  • Never leave your car running in an enclosed area, even with the garage door open.
  • No one should be inside the vehicle while it is being cleared of snow and ice.
  • If you are like me and have keyless ignition, double-check that the car is off
  • Always check your tailpipe to see if it is free of debris, and ice because carbon monoxide can leak into the passenger compartment

These tips were provided by KIDSANDCARS.ORG.

When it comes to generators, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) recommends the following steps to ensure you're using your equipment safely.

  • Take stock of your generator. Make sure equipment is in good working order before starting and using it. Do this before a storm hits.
  • Review the directions. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions. Review the owner’s manuals (look manuals up online if you cannot find them) so equipment is operated safely.
  • Install a battery operated carbon monoxide detector in your home. This alarm will sound if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide enter the building.
  • Have the right fuel on hand. Use the type of fuel recommended by the generator manufacturer to protect this important investment. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10% ethanol in outdoor power equipment. (For more information on proper fueling for outdoor power equipment visit It’s best to use fresh fuel, but if you are using fuel that has been sitting in a gas can for more than 30 days, add fuel stabilizer to it. Store gas only in an approved container and away from heat sources.
  • Ensure portable generators have plenty of ventilation. Generators should NEVER be used in an enclosed area or placed inside a home, a building, or a garage, even if the windows or doors are open. Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to drift indoors.
  • Keep the generator dry. Do not use a generator in wet conditions. Cover and vent a generator. Model-specific tents or generator covers can be found online for purchase and at home centers and hardware stores.
  • Only add fuel to a cool generator. Before refueling, turn the generator off and let it cool down.
  • Plug in safely. If you don’t yet have a transfer switch, you can use the outlets on the generator. It’s best to plug in appliances directly to the generator. If you must use an extension cord, it should be heavy-duty and designed for outdoor use. It should be rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Make sure the cord is free of cuts, and the plug has all three prongs.
  • Install a transfer switch. A transfer switch connects the generator to the circuit panel and lets you power hardwired appliances. Most transfer switches also help avoid overload by displaying wattage usage levels.
  • Do not use the generator to “backfeed” power into your home electrical system. Trying to power your home’s electrical wiring by “backfeeding” – where you plug the generator into a wall outlet – is dangerous. You could hurt utility workers and neighbors served by the same transformer. Backfeeding bypasses built-in circuit protection devices, so you could damage your electronics or start an electrical fire.

Here is more information on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning provided by the CDC.



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