Gas-powered generator deaths are preventable storm hazards, the state warns
"Gasoline powered, 4000 watt, portable electric generator. Be ready when the electric goes out!"

Portable Electric Generator
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis warns of portable power generator hazards as Hurricane Idalia plunges thousands into darkness.

Seventy-five minutes into Hurricane Idalia’s landfall, almost a quarter-million Floridians were reportedly without power, prompting warnings about the dangers that gas-powered generators present.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ Office put out the warning first thing Wednesday as the worst tropical storm to hit the Big Bend in 127 years began to grind its way across the state.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that 85 Americans die each year from gas-powered generators. And it can be an invisible killer — deadly in a matter of minutes — due to generators’ carbon monoxide emissions.

Patronis is reminding Floridians of key steps to stay safe from the carbon monoxide exhaust generators emit. It’s recommended that users:

— Run generators in dry, well-ventilated areas, not indoors, in a garage, basement, crawlspace or shed.

— Avoid placing generators near doors or windows to prevent exhaust fume intake. The CPSC specifically recommends 20 feet away from a dwelling.

— Use heavy-duty extension cords designed for outdoor use to ensure proper connection to appliances.

— Refrain from refueling while the generator runs.

— Disconnect devices before shutting off the generator.

— Install battery-powered carbon monoxide alarms.

Carbon monoxide poisoning from the exhaust presents the chief hazard of gas-powered generators, but they also pose a risk of shock or electrocution if they are operated in wet conditions, or improperly used to backfeed a home’s electrical system.

A report on a power outage tracking map showed outages Wednesday morning spanning from Franklin County to Putnam County, as far south as Charlotte County, and north to Gadsden County. The tracker for the state’s largest power provider, Florida Power & Light, shows scattered outages as far south as Collier County, where 330 FPL customers were powerless as of 9 a.m.

“We’re responding to Hurricane Idalia as it impacts parts of Florida,” the website tracking outages reads. “Crews are restoring power in between weather bans as conditions allow. Remember to stay far away from flooding, downed power lines and debris.”

As of Monday, more than 30 utilities from Georgia, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ohio, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky and Alabama were in Florida to provide mutual aid assistance to Florida, according to the American Public Power Association. And linemen from as far away as Nebraska and Oklahoma were on their way, according to an association release.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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