A Fire Department Community Health Intervention to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Following a Hurricane

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Portable generators are commonly used during electrical service interruptions that occur following large storms such as hurricanes. Nearly all portable generators use carbon based fuels and produce deadly carbon monoxide gas. Despite universal warnings to operate these generators outside only, the improper placement of generators makes these devices the leading cause of engine related carbon monoxide deaths in the United States. The medical literature reports many cases of Carbon Monoxide (CO) toxicity associated with generator use following hurricanes and other weather events. This paper describes how Howard County, Maryland Fire and Rescue (HCFR) Services implemented a public education program that focused on prevention of Carbon Monoxide poisoning from portable generator use in the wake of events where electrical service interruptions occurred or had the potential to occur. A major challenge faced was communication with those members of the population who were almost completely dependent upon electronic and wireless technologies and were without redundancies. HCFR utilized several tactics to overcome this challenge including helicopter based surveillance and the use of geocoded information from the electrical service provider to identify outage areas. Once outage areas were identified, HCFR personnel conducted a door-to-door canvasing of effected communities, assessing for hazards and distributing information flyers about the dangers of generator use. This effort represents one of the first reported examples of a community-based endeavor by a fire department to provide proactive interventions designed to prevent carbon monoxide illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberecurrents.dis.b7b37e23941192c412959915652792e4
JournalPLoS Currents
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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