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After Ellicott City incidents, fire department urges generator safety

The Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services is urging residents still without power to use care when operating generators, following two incidents in which high levels of carbon monoxide were found in county houses.

After Friday's violent storms knocked out power to more than 61,000 residents, Howard firefighters have been canvassing neighborhoods, checking on residents and distributing safety tips.

During the canvassing Monday, an Ellicott City man reported high levels of carbon monoxide in his house earlier in the day, and reported having symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, but the symptoms had subsided by the time firefighters arrived.

In that instance, the man had placed a generator outside, to the rear of his residence. A borrowed carbon monoxide detector showed "dangerous levels," the department said.

The second incident occurred Tuesday, when firefighters were again canvassing Ellicott City and discovered a home in the 2500 block of Liter Court with its back door open and generator running.

According to the department, a car was in the home's driveway, but no one answered when crews knocked on the door.

After several unsuccessful attempts to contact someone in the home, police were called to assist with entry. The house was empty, but crews located a dog, which has been turned over to animal control.

"High levels" of carbon monoxide, five times the normal level, were discovered in the basement.

The house was ventilated and secured. The department said attempts are being made to notify the homeowners.

In the wake of the incidents, fire officials reminded residents and business owners of the importance of having working carbon monoxide detectors, and of operating generators in a safe manner. Generators should be placed in well-ventilated areas outside, away from all doors, windows and vents. Generators should never be used in attached garages, even with the door open.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness and bright red skin or lips.

"Often we see a rise in carbon monoxide poisoning, fires and other accidents after a major storm has hit," fire Chief Bill Goddard said in a release. "That's why we are out in the community, going door-to-door in order to equip people with tools to keep themselves out of harm's way."

The department plans to continue canvassing neighborhoods.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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