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Last weekend, Tropical Storm Kay brought heavy rain, flooding and high winds to parts of southern California and southwestern Arizona.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a national government agency charged with protecting the public from unreasonable injury and death related to consumer products, has made it a point to remind Americans that extreme weather put people at risk of power outages, carbon monoxide poisoning, fire and electric shock.
With hurricane season on the Gulf Coast and Atlantic running from June 1 to November 30, according to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) current forecast, families still have time to consider tropical storm risks and to prepare for the worst scenarios.
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But they should do it soon if they haven’t already.
Here are the safety precautions CPSC and the NWS want Americans to keep in mind for all future storms.
Know how to use a generator
Each year, 85 American consumers die each year from generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning, the CPSC estimates.
Carbon monoxide poisoning from portable gas-powered generators “can kill in minutes” because the gas is “colorless and odorless”, warns the CPSC.
According to the CPSC, people exposed to carbon monoxide may lose consciousness before recognizing common poisoning symptoms such as nausea, dizziness or weakness.
Portable generators should never be used inside the home, garage, basement, crawl space, shed, or on a porch, the CPSC said — and should instead be placed outside outside. at least 20 feet from a house.
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“Opening doors or windows will not provide sufficient ventilation to prevent the buildup of lethal levels of CO,” explained the CPSC.
“The generator exhaust [should be kept] away from the house and any other building that someone might enter, keeping windows and other openings closed in the generator exhaust path. »
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According to the CPSC, generator owners and would-be owners should thoroughly review safety documents, maintain machine maintenance according to manufacturer instructions, and look for models that have carbon monoxide detectors with auto-shutoff technology. .
Check CO and smoke detectors
Whether a household has a generator or not, the CPSC said families should have carbon monoxide detectors and battery-operated smoke detectors installed inside their homes.
According to the CPSC, detectors and alarms with built-in battery backup are also worth considering.
For optimal safety, the CPSC said carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on each level of a home and placed outside separate bedrooms, while smoke detectors should be installed on each level of a house and placed inside each room.
The CPSC said families should test carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms monthly to make sure these devices are working and have adequate battery life long before a storm hits.
“Never ignore an alarm when it sounds,” the CPSC added.
“Get out immediately. Then call 911.”
Beware of flammable products
In the event of a power outage due to a tropical storm or hurricane, some families may turn to flammable materials, such as charcoal or candles, to take care of household chores.
However, the charcoal should never be burned inside because it “can produce lethal levels of [carbon monoxide]“, warned the CPSC.
Like generators, charcoal grills should not be used in garages or enclosed spaces, even when a door is left open, the CPSC said.
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The Consumer Safety Agency also warned that candles should be used with caution.
“If you use candles, don’t burn them on or near anything that can catch fire,” the CPSC said.
“Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish candles when leaving the room and before sleeping.”
The CPSC recommends the use of flashlights over candles if both are available in a household.
Stay away from wet devices
Since tropical storms and hurricanes are known to cause flooding, people should keep an eye out for wet fixtures, the CPSC said.
“Do not touch wet devices that are still plugged into an electrical source,” the CPSC warned.
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In the event of a flood, families should have a professional or a gas or electric company perform a safety check on appliances before resuming use, the CPSC noted.
“Replace all gas control valves, electrical wiring, circuit breakers and fuses that have been under water,” the CPSC said.
Watch out for gas leaks
Gas leaks can also occur during a tropical storm or hurricane, the CPSC warned.
If a gas leak is suspected, smelled or heard, families should leave their homes immediately.
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“Contact local gas authorities from outside the home,” the agency said. “Do not use any electronic devices, such as lights or phones, before you leave.”
National Weather Service: Tropical Storm and Hurricane Safety Tips
According to the National Weather Service, families can and should take safety precautions before a tropical storm or hurricane arrives.
The agency’s storm safety guide said people who live near the Gulf or Atlantic coasts should know where their nearest storm evacuation zone is.
“Carry bags” filled with “basic emergency” supplies should be packed before a storm arrives.
This information can be found on local government websites and emergency management resources or offices.
According to the NWS, “Go bags” filled with “basic emergency” supplies should be packed before a storm arrives.
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The agency recommends packing “basic disaster supplies” listed on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Ready.gov website.
These items include water (gallon per person), non-perishable food items, battery operated or wind-up radios, flashlights, first aid kit and extra battery packs.
Other basic disaster supplies Ready.gov names include a whistle to call for help, dust masks to filter contaminated air, plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter on. place, sanitation materials (wet towels, garbage bags, and plastic ties), a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, a manual can opener, local maps, and a cell phone with chargers.
The NWS Storm Guide also recommends people consider having materials to fortify their homes, such as wood planks for boarding windows.
Homeowners must also keep trees trimmed, bring outdoor furniture indoors, secure all doors and move cars into garages or another secure location, the NWS said.
The NWS said emergency and disaster evacuation plans should already be in place and reviewed with the family before a storm approaches.
Written copies of the plans can be packed into backpacks, according to the agency’s storm guide.
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According to the NWS, storm forecasts and updates can be found through local TV stations, cell phones, radio shows, social media, and Weather.gov.