While hundreds of people are still cleaning up from this year’s spring flooding New Brunswick is reminding people to take all possible precautions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
The tasteless, odourless, and coulourless gas is emitted by generators and other gas-powered machines commonly used in maintenance and repair work.
“There are some symptoms that you can look for like headache and dizziness and loss of consciousness and blurry vision and things like that, and nausea,” said New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell.
“So if you did experience those things and you were in a household where the risk was there then you would know to get outside right away and call 911 to go to the hospital.”
Russell said that the gas begins to do damage quickly, can have serious impacts on long-term health and even be fatal. She added that it poses the most danger while people are asleep.
The timing of the reminder is coincidental, coinciding with flood cleanup efforts across the province.
Officials had scheduled the event for Emergency Preparedness week but the lessons are doubly important as residents begin to repair and clean flood-affected homes.
Acting fire marshal Mike Lewis says that gas-powered pumps or generators should never be used indoors or close to open doors or windows.
“The amount of carbon monoxide that gets generated by generators is extremely high and there’s really no safe space that’s inside, that’s confined that can be used safely,” he said.
“One of the reasons that we’re here today is really to remind people. New Brunswickers are resilient, but just to remind them that as they are going through their recovery operations and their rebuilding operations, just to make sure that they are taking fire safety and carbon monoxide awareness to mind.”
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In January 2017 several people suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning as they tried to keep warm when ice storms in the northern part of the province knocked out power.
Regional EMO coordinator Tim Nickerson says the stress of emergency situations like flooding or the ice storms of two years ago can cause people to make snap decisions that put themselves and their families in danger.
“It really is one of those things that people are not really conscious of and sometimes its just a simple matter of extension cords, your extension cord is only so long to reach into the house so you’re placing it key to the house so you can get it as powered up as you can,” he said.
Nickerson stressed the importance of 72-hour preparedness kits and having a well thought out disaster plan to help people avoid making those sorts of dangerous mistakes.