Lawmakers and feds take action to protect Louisianans from home generator carbon monoxide

Published: May. 19, 2023 at 12:34 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In the face of an impending hurricane season, officials say Louisiana is better equipped to protect lives during power outages caused by storms.

Prompted by a series of FOX 8 investigations following the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and in response to new recommendations from a federal agency, Louisiana has implemented crucial changes to combat the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Residents of Southeast Louisiana, like Lynn Moore and her family, often experience significant stress during hurricane season.

“We feel a lot of anxieties,” Moore explained. “We discuss whether or not we’re going to leave town. Even for a small [storm].”

Previously, their whole-home generator allowed odorless and colorless carbon monoxide gas to seep into their home.

“We woke up at 2:30 in the morning to the alarm screaming, literally screaming,” Moore said. “We almost lost our entire immediate family and we didn’t even know it could happen.”

Unfortunately, after Hurricane Ida, many homeowners faced prolonged power outages and relied on generators for extended periods. Unbeknownst to them, the generators posed a lethal threat, as the poisonous gas infiltrated their homes.

“We still think we’ve done something wrong. How could we let that happen? But to our knowledge, we did everything right,” she said.

“It was never a problem that gained a lot of attention because it was so sporadic,” said Louisiana State Fire Marshal Chief Dan Wallis.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted an investigation, releasing a comprehensive report last month.

The report highlighted the risks associated with generators and specifically referenced the incidents following Hurricane Ida. The CPSC’s findings indicated that carbon monoxide alarms played a crucial role in preventing injuries and saving lives. While the report primarily focused on portable generators, the agency proposed a rule for manufacturers to produce generators that emit less carbon monoxide and automatically shut off when emissions reach hazardous levels. The CPSC is currently drafting a report on incidents involving whole-home generators, although it remains incomplete.

Chief Wallis views these developments as a positive step towards addressing this deadly issue. He attributes these advancements to a recently enacted law, effective from Jan. 1, which was a direct outcome of the efforts to combat carbon emissions. As per the new legislation, every home bought or sold in Louisiana must have functional carbon monoxide detectors.

“I think it’s a piece that will have positive results for many, many years to come,” Wallis said. “I believe people are aware, completely aware, and at that point, they usually act and when they act, they become safer and we become safer.”

Moore, having experienced firsthand the dangers of carbon monoxide from a generator, has become an advocate for the law change. She has voiced her support and shared her harrowing experience with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“I almost lost my family and I don’t want it to happen to somebody else,” Moore said.

The CPSC has recently published its recommendations regarding portable generators in the Federal Register. If these recommendations are followed, the agency estimates that over the course of 30 years, more than 2,000 deaths could be prevented.

“My fear is that if we don’t continue to talk about it, you don’t continue to air it, and other people don’t, then that one person is not going to see or hear and they’re going to not know that they have carbon monoxide,” Moore said.

In another significant change resulting from FOX 8′s investigative series, installers of new whole-home generators are now required to ensure that the homes have functional carbon monoxide alarms before installing the generator. This measure aims to further safeguard residents from the deadly gas.

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