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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Upper Marlboro Family Treated for CO Exposure

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930, mebrady@co.pg.md.us

Firefighter/Medics from the Upper Marlboro area were alerted just after 9:00 am, Sunday, July 1, of a family of five that were displaying signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure.  Fire/EMS units responded to the single family home in the 12300 block of Putters Court and immediately removed the family from the house.  

When the family awakened they were experiencing headaches and told firefighters that due to a power outage they were operating a gasoline-powered generator on the outside of the house.  The family had the right idea in placing the generator outside, however, it was placed too close to a fireplace vent on the homes exterior wall.  It is believed that CO made it's way into the home by way of the vent while the family slept and sickened them.  It is fortunate that the generator ran out of fuel at some point during the night and stopped operating.

Firefighters using atmospheric monitors detected the presence of CO inside the home and used fans to ventilate the deadly gas.  Paramedics evaluated and treated the patients on the scene and used a pulse oximeter to determine if any CO was present in the patients.  Lower levels of CO were detected and the mother, father and three children were transported by paramedics to hospitals for additional oberservation and treatment.  Everyone was in good condition.

This is the third known incident involving generators that have occurred since Saturday evening.  

With thousands of residences and business without power after Friday evenings powerful storm many residents will turn on their generators to keep cool and power important appliances.  Gasoline powered generators produce a large volume of carbon monoxide (CO).  CO will sicken you and when exposed to high amounts will kill you.  The use of generators have spiked in recent years due to affordable pricing and their usefulness during power outages.  With more generators being used, it is anticipated that residents may not be completely aware of the dangers associated with them.

Two homeowners experienced unfortunate experiences with gasoline-powered generators just this evening.

A resident on Jenkins Ridge Road in Bowie had the right idea. Place the generator outside. Unfortunately they placed it on the front porch near an open door.  CO made it’s way into the home and sickened the occupant.  Firefighters arrived to find low levels of CO, however, the occupant already was suffering from exposure.  The home was ventilated and the occupant was evaluated by paramedics and did not wish to be transported to the hospital. 

Shortly after that incident a house fire was reported in the 3100 block of Teal Lane in Bowie.  Again, the family had the right idea, place the generator outside the house. Unfortunately, the generator was placed too close to the house and ignited a fire.  When firefighters arrived they found heavy fire conditions consuming the house.  The house sustained significant damage, however, the two occupants were not injured.

With power outages anticipated to last into the week the use of generators will be on the rise.  The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department offer these safety tips when operating a gasoline-powered generator.

  • Generators should be used in well-ventilated locations outside away from all doors, windows and vent openings.  The generator should be placed as far away as possible and at a minimum at least 3 feet away from combustibles-this includes your house.

  • 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.

  • Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it

  • When plugging in appliances, make sure they are plugged directly into the generator or a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord. The cords should be checked for cuts, tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
  • Apartments and condos are not permitted to use generators on their balconies. CO can enter into living areas above and on either side of your unit.

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