Hurricane Aftermath Equals Carbon Monoxide
Don’t let the aftermath of hurricanes be carbon monoxide poisoning and deaths. Too many storms lose more to generators than wind and water.
By Rebecca Martin
The official start of the 2023 hurricane season begins June 1 according to the National Hurricane Center. The National Hurricane Center, headquartered in Miami, Florida, is responsible for issuing forecasts of all subtropical and tropical cyclones which develop in the North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific. This year we have an unusual development because subtropical cyclonic action was detected mid-January and is being monitored over the next few months.
When June 1 arrives, round the clock surveillance will commence to provide warnings of impending storm systems with the potential to make landfall and become hazardous to human welfare. This heightened surveillance will continue until November 30 when the season officially ends.Hurricanes are defined as tropical cyclones with sustained winds of 74 mph or higher. The Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project team predicts a “slightly below-normal” Atlantic hurricane season for 2023.
While tornadoes can reach wind speeds of 300 mph, causing deaths with flying debris and building collapses; their after-storm impact generally covers a smaller area and often does not cause widespread and long-lasting power disruptions like hurricanes do. The increasing accuracy in forecasting hurricanes, increased evacuations and other safety measures have decreased the number of deaths from hurricanes. Deaths as a direct result of storm surges and flooding have decreased, but we have seen an increase in storm-related deaths due to the increased use of power generators due to extended loss of power.
The Gulf of Mexico is part of the North Atlantic system monitored by the NHC. Louisiana will never forget the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina which caused over 1800 fatalities and was one of the deadliest hurricanes in history or the destruction of Hurricane Ida which really brought to light the potential for subsequent fatalities due to carbon monoxide poisoning. After Hurricane Ida, many experienced prolonged power outages and many were not aware of the proper use of power generators and unaware of the dangers.
According to one Southeast Louisiana resident, Lynn Moore; a screaming alarm alerted her family to the fact that their generator had been sending carbon monoxide directly into their home.
“We woke up at 2:30 in the morning to the alarm screaming, literally screaming,” Moore said. “We almost lost our entire immediate family and we didn’t even know it could happen…to our knowledge, we did everything right” https://www.fox8live.com/2023/05/19/lawmakers-feds-take-action-protect-louisianans-home-generator-carbon-monoxide/
Poisonings a Known Risk in Aftermath of Hurricanes for Decades
An investigation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was undertaken and a comprehensive report was released last month. They found that carbon monoxide injuries and deaths were increasing due to the use of power generators. Their findings also concluded that the use of carbon monoxide alarms were crucial to prevent injuries and deaths. They also proposed a rule which requires manufacturers to produce generators with lower emissions and automatic shut-off capabilities.
The CPSC has been trying to make generators safer for a full since 2002. In 2017, the CPSC held hearings on this matter where Attorney Gordon Johnson of carbonmonoxide.com testified about the foreseeable dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning after power outages. Click here for Attorney Gordon Johnson’s testimony about the danger of carbon monoxide in the aftermath of hurricanes. The Trump administration didn’t advance those proposed regulations and now the CPSC has restarted this generation long quest to save lives.
A new law in Louisiana requires functioning carbon monoxide detectors in all homes bought or sold in Louisiana effective January 1, 2023.
Lynn Moore, whose family’s lives were saved by a sounding alarm, became a major advocate for the new law, sharing her experience with the CPSC.
In addition, all Louisiana installers of new whole-home generators are required to make sure all homes are properly equipped with carbon monoxide detectors in conjunction with the installation.
The CPSC has worked to document incidents of injury and death from portable generators and is moving forward to document injury and death from whole-home generators.
While these measures are welcome steps to prevent tragedies in the future, we still await responses from generator manufacturers. The deadly risks of running power generators was identified over two decades ago by federal regulators. But federal efforts have been blocked –
“by a statutory process that empowers manufacturers to regulate themselves, resulting in limited safety upgrades and continued deaths.” https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/generators-rules-carbon-monoxide-poisoning-rcna17707
In 2022, following a 104-page staff report by the CPSC, it was announced that recommendations would be made for new mandatory rules to make portable generators safer. This action was based on the findings that manufacturers had not voluntarily made the necessary changes even though the dangers have been well known for years. The manufacturers contend that their products are safe if the end users follow all safety guidelines in instruction manuals. The burden of safety has not only been shifted to the consumer, but to consumers functioning in high stress emergency weather situations.
The CPSC released a report in March of 2023 which stated that generator-related deaths not only were on the increase from 2009 to 2019, they were connected to the largest number of carbon monoxide-related deaths.
“For 2019, there were an estimated 250 consumer product-related CO deaths in the United States – greater than any other year in the report. Engine-Driven Tools (EDTs), including generators, were associated with the largest percentage of non-fire CO poisoning deaths for 2019. The report shows that since 2009, portable generators alone have been associated with an estimated 765 non-fire CO poisoning deaths, accounting for 40 percent of all CO deaths related to consumer products under CPSC’s jurisdiction.” https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/generators-rules-carbon-monoxide-poisoning-rcna17707
In spite of the fact that the risks posed by portable generators have been known and documented for the past two decades, the approach by generator manufacturers does not appear to be working to address the issues. Their reliance on consumers to address the safety issues has not been statistically successful. And when we speak of statistics and human lives, we forget the tragic impact such an approach can have on individual lives and families.
The facts remain, the studies exist. Progress is slow.
June 1, 2023 marks the beginning of hurricane season.
For safety tips, visit Consumer Reports;
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