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Portable Generators Emerging as Leading Cause of Death in Hurricanes

Don Jordan, Lisa Jordan, Pat Lamke
David Goldman/AP
Don Jordan, from left, Lisa Jordan and Pat Lamke struggle to load a generator they just bought at a Costco store as it opened for the first time since Hurricane Irma passed through in Miromar Lakes, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

As we move through the hurricane season, it is important to remember how to safely operate a generator. Recently, more people have died from generator accidents in hurricanes than from anything else.

When hurricane Laura hit Louisiana in 2020, the leading cause of the death from that storm was generator accidents. That has emergency officials urging people with portable generators to make a plan now.

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It’s critically important to place your generator not just outside, but at least ten to fifteen feet away from your living space and never have it inside the house or in any enclosed space- even the garage.

That means making sure you have a place you’ll feel secure leaving it, away from the home, chained to a tree or otherwise bolted down to avoid someone stealing it.

Dominick Boyd is the Deputy Chief of Lee County’s EMS.

"What you’re trying to do is make that generator less likely to be stolen," Boyd said. "It doesn't need to be locked in a safe, or heavily secured, but just add that deterrence.”

He said odorless carbon monoxide can find a way into your home and will still accumulate even if the windows are left open.

"Even if that generator is far enough away where you don’t smell the exhaust, that CO can still be leaking into the house, and replacing oxygen that’s vital for us," Boyd said.

He added that once you’ve determined where you plan to secure your generator, make sure you have an extension cord long and strong enough to reach.

Also be sure not to hook up too many appliances to your generator or use too many extension cords. These could damage your appliances or the generator itself.