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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > As Power Outages Continue, Beware of Carbon Monoxide

As Power Outages Continue, Beware of Carbon Monoxide


April 1, 2011

4:30 PM


Thousands of Mainers are out of power today from the winter storm that is pounding the state. The MaineCDC and MEMA remind everyone to use generators and alternate heaters safely. Improper operation or placement of such devices can lead to Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.

CO is an odorless gas emitted when burning most fuels. Improper operation or placement of alternative heating or power sources can result in poisoning when CO gas builds-up in enclosed spaces.

Warning signs of CO poisoning are flu-like symptoms without fever (such as headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion). CO poisoning can also result in coma and death.

To Avoid CO Poisoning During Power Outages:

  • Place generators outdoors in a well ventilated location
  • Ensure the generators is well away from home windows or doors
  • Ensure the generator is not place in an enclosed or semi-enclosed space (such as basement, cellar bulkhead, attached garage) where carbon monoxide can build up to dangerous levels.
  • Use kerosene heaters in a well ventilated room, by either keeping doors to other rooms open or keeping a window partially open (at least 1 inch)
  • Use only K-1 grade fuel in kerosene heaters, and follow instructions for setting the wick height.
  • Do not use outdoor cooking devices indoors (such as gas or charcoal grills, gas camp stoves).
  • Do not use indoor gas cooking stoves for heat.
  • Keep chimney flue and a window open when burning decorative gas fireplace logs as a heat source.
  • Keep a carbon monoxide monitor certified by the Underwriters Laboratory, and available in many hardware stores. If battery powered, replace batteries at least annually.

If You Suspect CO Poisoning

If you or anyone in the home suspect you are being poisoned by carbon monoxide:

  • Leave the house immediately, and then call your local fire department or 911.
  • Seek medical attention by contacting either the Northern New England Poison Center (800-222-1222) or your physician after you have left the area where you suspect the carbon monoxide is present.
  • Do not go back into the building until you know the CO levels are safe.

A State study of the CO poisoning epidemic, in the aftermath of the January 1998 ice storm power outages, found that improper placement of a gasoline generator, such as in a basement or garage, could increase the risk of poisoning by 20 to 300-fold. Using a kerosene heater in a room without any doors to other rooms opened, or failing to crack a window, also put people at increased risk for CO poisoning.

The following publications are from the MaineCDC:

(These publications are in Adobe .pdf format)





Last update: 07/20/10