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Generator Safety at Forefront After Oceanside Death

Generator safety has been a major topic of discussion since Hurricane Sandy hit last Monday, with fire officials and local politicians urging residents to keep generators out of their homes.

The warning comes with greater meaning after an Oceanside woman died Monday from police said appeared to be elevated levels of carbon monoxide in her home.

Nassau County detectives said that Michelle Bracco, 44, was discovered unconscious in her home around 10 p.m. Monday night. She was transported to South Nassau Communities Hospital where she was pronounced deceased at 11:05 p.m. by medical staff.

Police said that a portable generator in Bracco's attached garage was being used to power the residence.

The Oceanside Fire Department detected high levels of carbon monoxide in the home at the time of the incident. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless gas given off by gas-powered generators, fire officials said.

Commack firefighters and Rep. Steve Israel earlier this week urged residents to be careful and use 'common sense' when using a gas-powered generator through Long Island's power outages.

"People need to be cognizant these are dangerous times. Hurricane Sandy has crippled Long Island ... power outages are abundant. The use of these generators are clearly a problem," said Patrick Fazio, Commack Fire Department commissioner.

Fire chiefs report responding to numerous calls for potential carbon monoxide poisoning, but carbon monoxide isn't the only danger when using a generator.

The Commack Fire Department responded to a 911 call early Monday morning in which a Commack woman suffered severe burns after spilling gasoline while attempting to refuel a generator and a nearby candle caused the vapors to catch fire.  Fazio said it is one of many generator-related calls Commack firefighters have responded to over the last week.

"As it gets colder, more and and more people are relying on generators because LIPA is not getting on the electricity fast enough," Israel, D-Dix Hills, said.

Israel said that every year more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, with more than 20,000 visiting the emergency room and 4,000 being hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning.

"We urge people to use care, safety and common sense when using a generator," the congressman said.

John Cangemi, the head underwriter for scientific safety organization Underwriters Laboratory, offered these safety tips when using generators:

  • Place portable generators as far away from the home as possible.
  • Never use a portable generator inside the home, inside the garage or inside a enclosed area. Use a generator outdoors on an level, elevate surface so that water does not collect near it.
  • Keep your generator dry, unless your generator is rated as weatherproof.
  • Use a carbon monoxide alarm. Even when a generator is used correctly, carbon monoxide may leak into a home.
  • Never use a generator to power your entire home - unless the generator is rated to do so. Only use a generator to power a few necessary household items.
  • Do not attempt to use a stove top or gas oven to heat a home. Use appliances as attended to avoid potential problems.
  • Do not attempt to plug a generator into a regular home outlet, use a UL-rated outdoor power cord.
  • Be cautious when fueling generators. Fuel and vapors are extremely flammable.

Includes reporting by Sara Walsh.

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