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Awareness programs are needed

By Sandy H. Straus
Posted December 12 2005



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After Hurricane Katrina, generators soared in popularity. As a result of Hurricane Wilma, there was an unprecedented demand for generators and containers of gasoline to fuel them.

It seemed as if safety was compromised when at least 12 percent of the Hurricane Wilma-related deaths were attributed to generator misuse.

Most generators require gasoline to operate. Gasoline is a highly flammable liquid that has the capacity to harm us as much as it helps us. Gasoline mishandling accounts for thousands of deaths and injuries each year across the country.

Gasoline fumes may ignite or explode, especially when a source of ignition, such as a cigarette, electrical arc, flame, hot equipment, static electricity, or chemical, is introduced. (Even cell phone usage may pose a potential hazard.)

In an enclosed space, colorless, odorless and lethal concentrations of carbon monoxide can quickly develop. For these reasons, battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors should be mandatorily sold with each generator.

Some concerned politicians are now introducing bills that would provide tax credits for associations, businesses, homeowners and select communities to purchase and install generators. As long as generators are promoted to endure the long power outages associated with hurricanes and other disasters, then new legislation and multilingual educational awareness programs are needed to ensure the safety of those with and around generators and gasoline use, transportation and storage.

City, county, and state policies must be revised in order to prevent further injuries and deaths that will continue to result from the misuse of generators and the mishandling of gasoline. Until then, these safety threats will remain in our communities.

Sandy H. Straus, president and senior engineer of ESRA Consulting Corporation, is the author of several government reports and holds a dual contractor's license in explosives engineering (residential and commercial blasting).,0,1631588.story?coll=sfla-news-opinion