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UL offers critical safety information for post-hurricane Sandy recovery

Safety Guidance Provided on Critical Topics including Safe Use of Portable Generators to Avoid Carbon Dioxide Poisoning  

NORTHBROOK, IL, November 2, 2012 - UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a world leader in advancing safety, offers critical safety information for post-hurricane Sandy recovery in the areas of:

  • Portable generator safety
  • Flood damage
  • Contamination by foodborne illness

Using portable generators safely to avoid carbon dioxide poisoning and electrocution:

  • Place the portable generator as far away from the home as possible.
    Do not use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, or other partly enclosed areas.  Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can build up in these areas. Using a fan or opening windows and doors does not supply enough fresh air. Only use a generator outside and far away from windows, doors, and vents. These openings can pull in generator exhaust.
  • Never use a generator to power the entire home.
    Homeowners should use generators only to provide power directly to a few household items, such as a refrigerator, freezer or lights. Generators used to power a building during an outage must be connected through transfer equipment that isolates the generator supply from the utility supply.
  • Use outdoor extension cords to the household items needing power.
    Use heavy, outdoor extension cords not indoor-only extension cords. Note the maximum wattage the generator produces and never exceed that amount with the appliances you plug in. Appliances should have their wattage listed on the product.
  • If available, use a portable ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) with the outdoor extension cords to help prevent against shock hazards.
    GFCIs protect from electrocution and are the outlets that have the "Test" and "Reset" buttons on the electric outlet. The majority of portable generators do not include GFCI protection.
  • Portable generators typically are not weatherproof.
    Generators can pose the risk of electrocution and shock when used in wet conditions. Use generators outdoors on a dry surface where water cannot reach it.

Managing and evaluating water-damaged materials.

  • Remove porous materials, such as carpet, drywall, ceiling tiles and pressed wood furnishings immediately.
    If damaged by floodwaters, these items must be removed because of the chemicals and bacteria carried in floodwaters. Remove these items as your first step.
  • Evaluate semi-porous materials, such as framing lumber as it may be salvaged by scrubbing and pressure washing.
  • Set aside non-porous items such as solid countertops and flooring for cleaning later.
    They may be restored with soap and water then sanitized if needed. It's important to clean while these materials are still wet versus letting them dry out and making them wet again. Also, clean before sanitizing, as sanitizers are not effective on soiled surfaces.
  • To prevent mold and moisture issues, the drying process must be underway within 72 hours of cleaning.
    Materials damaged by rainwater or burst pipes may be retained only if the structure of the material is not compromised and the materials are effectively dried out within 48 hours.
  • Water damage is cheaper to repair than mold damage; water damage turns to mold damage in three to seven days.
  • Mold can be destructive to the internal structure of the building and may eat away at it for months or years until it is too late to save the structure.
    On first glance, surfaces with mold growth may seem like they need only a quick scrub of some cleaner to fix, but in reality, mold growth can be much more than just a cosmetic issue.
  • Mold also can be a health hazard.
    Exposure to mold spores and other components of mold colonies may trigger respiratory illnesses such as asthma and allergies. 

Avoiding foodborne illness.

  • If food looks or smells bad, discard it.
    "When in doubt, throw it out."
  • Dispose any food directly in contact with flood waters.
    If food comes directly in contact with flood waters, discard it to prevent microbiological, chemical, and/or physical contamination. Sewage and other bacteriological waste may be present in flood water as can chemical contamination from household chemicals, automotive fluids, and agricultural materials such as fertilizers and garden pesticides. 
  • Use a thermometer.
    When deciding what to keep, use a cleaned and sanitized probe thermometer to measure the internal temperature of perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, and leftovers. 

For more information, please visit: www.ul.com.