If their gas-powered generator hadn’t run out of fuel, an Upper Marlboro family might not have woken up to call firefighters, said Mark Brady, spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department.
Thankfully, Brady said, the generator — which had been placed just outside the home in the 12300 block of Putters Court near a chimney vent — ran out of fuel Saturday night, and the family of five were transported to a hospital and treated for exposure to carbon monoxide, a potentially lethal gas produced by generators.
With power outages affecting thousands in the aftermath of Friday’s storm, the use of gas-powered generators are causing headaches for the department, Brady said. Over the weekend, fire and EMS responded to two other incidents caused by generators.
Gas-powered generators range in price from about $200 to more than $1,000, and their relative affordability makes them an attractive option for residents without power, Brady said.
“We’re seeing an increase of the use of these generators, with the number of power outages and the duration of those outages over the past year,” Brady said. “These generators produce a high amount of carbon monoxide.”
James Grier, president of the Marlton Community Association, in the neighborhood where the carbon monoxide incident occurred this weekend, said he was also running his generator, but had no problems with it, because he kept it away from the house on an extension cord.
“My kids know to stay well away from it,” Grier said, adding that the community association would look into ways to educate residents on the proper way to use generators.
Generators should only be used in open space, well away from the home, Brady said. Even in a garage with an open door is too close, he said.
It is also illegal, Brady said, to run a generator on the balcony of an apartment or condominium, and residents can be fined for a code violation.
In Bowie this weekend, a resident on Jenkins Road placed a generator on the front porch of the home, and carbon monoxide leaked into the home through an open door, sickening the resident, Brady said. The resident declined to be transported to the hospital, Brady said.
A house fire was also caused by a generator that was placed too close to a home in the 3100 block of Teal Lane in Bowie, though the occupants were not hurt.
Brady also recommends that residents install a carbon monoxide detector if they plan to use a generator.
In April, five members of an Oxon Hill family were found dead in their home in the 700 block of Shelby Drive after a rusty pipe leaked carbon monoxide into the home. The incident prompted officials, led by Fire Chief Marc Bashoor, to look into legislation requiring carbon monoxide detectors in all homes.