HERMON Fumes from a gas generator being used indoors overcame a Hermon family early Monday, leading St. Lawrence County emergency officials to emphasize safety when residents turn to alternative heating methods during power outages.
State police said Douglas Harris, 32, Anastassia Dehart, 33, and their 8-month-old daughter, Samantha Harris, suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from running the generator inside their single-wide trailer home without adequate ventilation after they lost power in the ice storm. They were treated at E.J. Noble Hospital, Gouverneur, and released, but not before the fumes knocked Mr. Harris and the baby unconscious.
Richville Volunteer Fire Department responded to the familys 547 Jonesville Road home at 12:25 a.m. Gouverneur and Hermon volunteer rescue squads also responded.
Assistant Fire Chief Corie W. Farr said the family used the gas-powered generator in a rear bedroom of the home with the door closed.
Mr. Harris would get up and check on the generator, turning it off and on every few hours until they fell asleep, he said.
Everyone could barely breathe when they woke, and they got out of the house and went to the neighbors, Mr. Farr said.
The baby initially was not responsive but started breathing again with fresh air, he said.
Mr. Harris, however, went back into the trailer to turn the generator off.
He was overcome by fumes when he opened the bedroom door, which knocked him out, Mr. Farr said. He had been inside for a little bit and had not come back out. The neighbor went in and opened a few windows and on the way through found him knocked out in the bedroom and he carried him out.
Mr. Farr said that while the unidentified neighbor acted bravely, there could have been two bodies left inside.
Wait for emergency officials to arrive; dont just run inside, Mr. Farr said. It was a brave thing he did, but in the future, break windows on the outside to start getting air.
The situation could have been avoided with proper precautions, Mr. Farr said. Primarily, keep generators out of the house.
If you are going to use a power device that runs on gas, keep it outside and away from the house, Mr. Farr said. Not only is there the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning but the risk of fire.
St. Lawrence County Supervisor of Dispatch Operations James R. Chestnut subsequently sent out a warning.
Folks using generators, kerosene heaters and/or other similar devices must make sure there is a fresh air source to provide proper ventilation for these units, Mr. Chestnut said. There has already been one incident of carbon monoxide poisoning due to one of these units not being properly vented.
Mr. Chestnut said all instructions should be read and understood before use.
For tips and information visit www.dhses.ny.gov/media/documents/2011_EI_Handbook.pdf or www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/publicsafety/winter.cfm.