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Xeni Jardin at 7:36 am Tue, Oct 30, 2012
Is any advice really needed beyond the obvious precautions of not running them indoors and not spilling fuel on them??
Where are you supposed to run it if you’re on the thirtieth floor? And there’s ten feet of water outside.
Well, call me old-fashioned, but I wouldn’t fracking run it. I mean, I might need to cook dinner and only have a stick of dynamite, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to shove it up my brisket’s ass and light it off in the oven.
Sometimes you need to run a generator or a kerosene heater to stay alive. If you can’t tell the footmen to put it out on the loggia, you might need to have it inside.
You seem to have missed the point of my “brisket” analogy. Running a generator indoors in order to stay alive defeats the purpose. If one needs electricity to stay alive and one does not have an outdoor area to place a generator, then one needs to make other arrangements. Or have a generator professionally installed so as to exhaust to the outside.
Antinous, you’re an intelligent person, so I think I must be misunderstanding you. Surely you get this. Surely you’re not actually arguing that portable generators can safely be run indoors?
Regarding heat, every propane or kerosene heater I have owned has had instructions as to the conditions for safe indoor operation. I have never seen a portable generator indicate that it was in any way safe to run indoors.
EDIT: For example, the owner’s manual for the propane-powered Mr. Heater says, “This heater is safe for indoor use in small recreational enclosures, having means for providing combustion air and ventilation, such as enclosed porches, cabins, fishing huts, trailers, tent trailers, tents, truck caps and vans. It may be used for emergency indoor heating when connected to a disposable 1-lb. propane cylinder and for indoor use in commercial enclosures, having means for providing combustion air and ventilation, such as construction trailers or temporary work enclosures.”
…then one needs to make other arrangements. Or have a generator professionally installed so as to exhaust to the outside.
That’s a let them eat cake statement.
I think that you must disagree with me on the level of danger of running a portable generator indoors. Is that where we are differing? I’m not saying, “let them eat cake.” I’m saying, “I don’t care how hungry you are, please don’t eat that cyanide.”
Millions of people use things like kerosene heaters and portable generators indoors. No, they’re not safe, strictly speaking. But a tiny fraction of people who do it actually die from it. Far fewer than would die from cold, spoiled food and other things that the generators / heaters prevent. It’s not an instant death sentence. I don’t know how to compare statistics, but I’d warrant that driving a car is more dangerous than running a generator.
I would say that, although many people manage to operate generators indoors without killing themselves, that doesn’t make it a safe thing to do. CO is odorless, which means that you will have no idea that you are killing yourself until you are already dead. It seems a hell of a gamble. In a multi-tenant dwelling like exists in NYC, you could be killing your neighbors instead of yourself without even knowing it. All of this might be filed under acceptable risk if there weren’t other, safer ways of solving most problems that might require a portable generator. Spoiled food? There are lots of forms of preserved food that require no refrigeration, canning being the most obvious. Need heat? Propane heaters are cheaply available (less than the cost of a generator, at least) that are rated for indoor use. Need to run a CPAP machine for your sleep apnea or nebulizer for your crippling asthma? A 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery will keep you running for a good long while. These are not “let them eat cake” arguments. They’re safer solutions to the problems you’re invoking, and are comparable in accessibility, convenience, and cost, to a portable generator.
But at least we have finally identified the core of our difference: you believe that running generators indoors is low-risk and I don’t. And on that, I am content to agree to disagree, and to step away from the thread.
Footmen? ;-) Places in NY _might_ have a doorman or much more probably just a superintendent who fixes drips, adjusts the furnace, and makes sure that the sidewalk is shoveled or swept as the season demands.
Nowhere in the northeast has such a dire need for heat and electricity. Only some areas along the Appalachian mountains caught a lot of snow and lost power. For the most part, homes there tend to have fireplaces and wood stoves, or the can conveniently fire up a generator in the driveway or backyard. There are shelters available for people in need those areas.
As for the Joshua’s so-called “let them eat cake” statement, it is not one. He is talking about permanently installed generators, not portables. By professionally installed, he means that the connections to the mains must be performed by a qualified electrician to meet US building codes (specifically the NFPA 70, better known as the National Electrical Code) to ensure that the generator is not powering up downed wires scattered in the street and is not likely to burn down the house. A person who is likely to be stuck in the cold in a high-rise in the US knows better than to try and use a gasoline engine inside their apartment. Especially since the stairs are so close and there’s a damned good chance of warm shelter and a hot meal less than 30 minutes away. Not to mention that your neighbors will break down your doors and kick your ass for being noisy and stupid.
People who were educated in the US or other western country know better than to do that sort of thing.
Although every year someone in the US dies because they ran a generator, used a charcoal burner, or kerosene heater in an enclosed space, the vast majority of those deaths are among people who came here from places that have few enclosed structures. That’s not being elitist, I assure you. It’s just a statement of fact. The last CO fatalities that made the news in the US due to using charcoal briquets indoors were from a rural area of Cambodia or Laos. As you may or may not know, burning dried dung providing a relatively smokeless, safe heat. Briquets, though seemingly smokeless, release deadly amounts of CO. A deadly difference for similar looking fuels. There are occasional fatalities due to CO poisoning from indoor gas appliances in the US. Blocked or poor venting, blocked chimneys, leaks in ducting, etc. But that’s also why CO detectors are required in new construction and in many municipalities, are required for rental properties or to sell a home.
When a storm of that size approaches, in the words of Excel Excel you “get the hell out!”
There’s no excuse for remaining behind in powerless buildings when there are numerous shelters available. I’m right here in it, as it were. My neighborhood, well, for 3-4 blocks, has power. I had to go out to the store this morning around 4am. There were few street lights, very few traffic lights, and fewer house lights along most of my path. Streets are closed all over and there are branches and trees down.
In NYC, many people were told to leave. Those with a lick of sense took that advice and either left the city or headed for a shelter. The people in the south of Manhattan decided to stay, they should be prepared to tough it out. The way the place floods and knowing in advance the expected storm surge told all but the most hearty of Darwin candidates that it was time to leave. I don’t have any sympathy for people stuck below 20th st. They all knew what to expect.
Everyone had plenty of warning and time to leave except for the communities of Little Ferry, Moonachie, and one other right next to those where unforseen storm surge broke through a berm (not a levee) and flooded their towns in a matter of five minutes.
Antinous, there is no place in the United States where a gasoline generator is rated for indoor use. Especially the portable type that you are referring to in your various comments. Certain high rises may have diesel generators in sub-cellar areas, but those are built to operate in those location. They draw combustion air and expel exhaust outside the building.
Well intentioned write-up, but its very wording is dangerous: one is never “forced” to use a generator in a confined space. Because using a consumer-grade generator in a confined space is a death sentence.
Do not use a generator in a confined space. Do not use a generator in a semi-confined space. Even if you feel you are “forced” to. Because it WILL kill you.
Right. As someone who lives in a rural area, I am acutely aware of the effects of being without electricity, as I am often without it. I raise pigs, and at any given time, I may have several thousand dollars (retail value) in pork in a deep freeze. But even with all that on the line, I would not do something as suicidal (and, potentially, homicidal) as running a generator in an apartment. It’s pure hubris for New Yorkers to think that their “need” for electricity trumps basic laws of physics and biology.
You are a luck, lucky man. I wish I had several thousands of dollars of pork in my freezer!
Where do you live? I might be able to help you with that problem! You don’t think all that pork is for me to eat, do you?
You don’t think all that pork is for me to eat, do you?
I live on pork. It’s fucking delicious.
It certainly does. How much would you care to bet that the “gentlemen” from the article weren’t from around there?
Thanks for posting this. While I wasn’t hit by the storm, I did have a scare while using the oven in a new apartment.
For those who elect to ignore the advice of manufacturers and the CDC, I recommend picking up one of these CO early warning systems.
These stories seemed relevant:
One death: http://wnep.com/2012/10/30/sandy-claims-another-life-in-carbon-monoxide-death/
One death: http://palmer.patch.com/articles/death-and-danger-from-generators-during-power-outage
Two deaths: http://www.sfgate.com/news/crime/article/Superstorm-Sandy-s-death-toll-in-NJ-grows-to-14-3998321.php
This one seems to have some duplicates with the above, but I believe that the Albrightsville death is unique: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-pa-sandy-storm-deaths-20121030,0,7111261.story
So, I have five deaths so far from carbon monoxide poisoning related to generator use from Sandy. And these generators were not actually located inside the homes, but in adjacent garages, and the fumes entered the home.
To put that another way, approximately 6% of Sandy’s deaths have been from CO poisoning due to generator usage.