I was left without power for a week following Superstorm Sandy last year and the biggest thing I took away from that experience was that we don’t realize how much we depend on electricity until it’s taken away from us. A new survey recently revealed that only half of Americans say that they feel prepared to deal with an extended power outage. Typically the most widely felt effect of natural disasters are widespread power outages and the time to prepare for such a possibility is well before disaster is imminent. One of the most common ways people are responding to the possibility of no power is by buying portable generators to power their homes when the grid is down. That opens up a whole new can of worms that everyone in downstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut remembers well:
Those things aren’t exactly the most fuel efficient engines to begin with and keeping those generators running required standing in line for hours in the cold at a gas station that may or may not have gas by the time you get to the front of the line. There was another problem with generators that was far more serious though. Seventeen people died in the aftermath of Sandy from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by using generators improperly and generators have been responsible for more than 500 deaths since 2005. First of all, powering up a generator indoors or in any enclosed space might as well be a death sentence. Even operating the generator outdoors could be dangerous if it is located too close to an open window, vent, or door could cause CO levels to rise to lethal levels. The conclusion is that if you feel that you must have a generator make absolutely sure that you’re using it safely and also invest in some battery powered carbon monoxide detectors just in case. They just may save your life.
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