South Brunswick residents sickened by carbon monoxide from generators too close to home

South Brunswick Police Officers Matthew Hagood, left, and Tyler Harpster rescued two residents who were suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning on Aug. 4.PHOTO COURTESY OF SOUTH BRUNSWICK POLICE DEPARTMENT
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South Brunswick Police Officers Matthew Hagood, left, and Tyler Harpster rescued two residents who were suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning on Aug. 4.PHOTO COURTESY OF SOUTH BRUNSWICK POLICE DEPARTMENT

SOUTH BRUNSWICK – Officers were dispatched to a Robin Road home for a woman possibly having a heart attack around 10:55 p.m. Aug. 4.

Officers Matthew Hagood and Tyler Harpster arrived to find the 61-year-old woman and her 9-year-old granddaughter in the residence. The officers soon realized that the woman was not suffering a heart attack but the effects of carbon monoxide poising from a generator running next to the home, according to information provided by the South Brunswick Police Department.

Officers had the family evacuate the home and called the Kendall Park Fire Department to the scene. Kendall Park First Aid Squad arrived and transported both people to Princeton Medical Center where they were admitted, according to the statement.

“The officer got to the home in three minutes and as soon as he got there, he heard the noise of the running generator,” Police Chief Raymond Hayducka said in the statement. “It was right outside the home. It had been placed by the back door, but it was right under an open window, so the exhaust was coming back into the home. The fumes were still pouring into the house. The officers quickly realizing what they were dealing with was key to getting the people help.”

Kendall Park Fire Chief Chris Perez said, “When my crew got there, the levels of carbon monoxide were 350 parts per million, and the generator had been running for approximately eight hours.

“Three hundred fifty is a lethal amount of carbon monoxide. You will start to feel disoriented and sick right away. The problem is most people think they are just tired. If they had just gone to bed thinking nothing was wrong, they would have passed away by Wednesday morning.”

Perez said it was the second incident involving a generator on Aug. 4 in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias. In the first case, firefighters responded to a home on Blue Jay Court, this time for the carbon monoxide detector going off.

“That call was at 5 p.m. When we got there, the carbon monoxide was around 70 parts per million,” said Perez. “They had been running their generator in the garage. The homeowners said, ‘Oh, we didn’t know that (it was supposed to be outside).’ “

Proper use of a generator is key when there is extended power outages, according to officials.

“People maybe using a generator for the first time and not be familiar with the safety measures. Make sure the generator is at least 10 to 15 feet away from your home, in a well-ventilated space and not running in an enclosed area of any kind,” Perez said in the statement. “A lot of people think they can put it right outside their back door or a window, but it needs to be 10 to 15 feet away.”

Carbon monoxide is a clear, odorless gas. Residents usually have no idea they have been inhaling it until they feel extremely ill, according to the statement.