In Sandy's Wake, Lend a Hand
November 2, 2012
It is our greatest hope that you and your families have come away unscathed by Hurricane Sandy, but the reality is that millions of people from the East Coast to the Midwest have been affected.
As home performance contractors and weatherization experts, you know better than most about the grave safety hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning due to improperly positioned back-up generators. A number of deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of improper use or placement of generators have already been reported. We encourage all of you to reach out to family, friends and customers with advice on how to prevent these tragedies. Let them know that generators ought to be used only in the way specifically instructed by the manufacturer.
- Never use a generator indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages or basements.
- Outdoors, be sure that all generators have at least 3-4 feet of space on all sides and above.
- Outdoors, do not use generators near windows, even if the windows are closed.
- Do not attempt to rig the generator in any way other than how the manufacturer has instructed.
- If you show symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning - dizziness, headaches, nausea, and tiredness - leave the home immediately and call emergency services. DO NOT re-enter the structure until it has been cleared by trained and equipped personnel.
- Caution is your friend - carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. If you are using a generator, keep the symptoms associated with poisoning in mind. If you start to experience any of the above symptoms - automatically attribute them to generator use, and have it checked. It is better to be safe than sorry.
In addition to generator safety, another potential hazard facing homeowners in the coming weeks will be the evolving effects of water damage. As home performance contractors, you know that moisture damage and mold are serious threats to health and safety.
Below are a few tips that you can use to help the people in your networks recognize water damage, and respond accordingly to prevent its spread.
- Follow your nose - Mold gives off a musty or suspicious odor. Follow the smell, and look closely at the surface of the building materials or furnishings in question.
- Investigate - Look inside cabinets, behind drywall, around baseboards, in basements, in crawlspaces, and in attics.
- Use your eyes - Signs of mold growth include cottony, velvety, granular or leathery surfaces with varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow or green. Mold can also appear as a discoloration or stain.
- Start the clock - If your home has flooded, the longer the water remains, the higher the probability that mold will grow. Keep an eye on areas of your home that are water-logged the longest. These areas are the most at-risk for mold growth.
- Remove it quickly - While there are a number of home remedies one can use to remove mold, the best solution is to call in a professional. Mold, especially black mold, can be VERY dangerous. Professionals are trained to handle mold infestations safely and quickly. Identifying mold early is the best thing you can do to mitigate the hassle of removal.
I hope that these tips will help you and the people in your network, recover quickly, safely, and completely.
If you were affected by this storm and need assistance, I encourage you to visit http://www.fema.gov/apply-assistance and apply. Our thoughts are with you, and all who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Larry Zarker and staff of the Building Performance Institute, Inc.