East Windsor Fire Chief Warns of ‘Silent Killers’

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, East Windsor Fire Chief Kevin Brink advises residents on how to properly deal with the loss of electricity and heat

By the time Hurricane Sandy moved beyond the area, she left in her wake almost 11,000 East Windsor residents, more than 2,000 Hightstown residents, and up to 2,000 Cranbury residents without power.

While some residents were left without power or heat until just a few days ago, East Windsor Fire Co. #1 Chief Kevin Brink said in a press release many residents employed their own replacement methods, some of which were potentially deadly.

"In some instances, it was a fatality just minutes away from happening," Brink said. "Some people were very, very lucky."

According to Brink, during Sandy and in the days that followed, members of East Windsor Volunteer Fire Co. # 1 responded to about 80 emergency calls.

Brink said dozens of these calls came after residents ran generators that were located right outside bedroom and basement windows and the exhaust poured into their homes, sickening the people and setting off carbon monoxide alarms.

The fire department also found multiple families using charcoal and charcoal grills to heat their homes. Brink said the fumes resulted in a trip to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning.

"These devices emit carbon monoxide, just like your automobile, and can have deadly consequences within minutes," Brink said.

According to Huffington Post, at least nine in New Jersey were fatally poisoned from the use of generators after the storm.

In Trenton, 59-year-old Gracie Dunston died from what authorities believe was carbon monoxide poisoning after she left a generator running in the basement of her home. Seven other family members were treated at local hospitals after they were overcome by fumes three-times the danger level.

A New Brunswick man is also believed to have succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning as the result of running a generator in his basement.

Brink advises all residents to keep generators at least 10 feet from their homes, with the exhaust facing downwind. Residents should also never use charcoal or stove cooktops as a way of heating their homes, he said.

"The fumes are odorless and very, very deadly," Brink said.

Brink also advised that residents should never go near or touch a downed power line, nor should anyone attempt to drive through a flooded roadway. 

In 2011, during Hurricane Irene, a driver reportedly attempted to drive through downtown on North Main Street when the road was flooded by Peddie Lake. The vehicle had to be abandoned.

Residents are advised to change carbon monoxide and smoke detector batteries twice a year to prevent false alarms, keep fire hydrants clear of tree limbs and branches after a storm, and use common sense and public awareness.

"These brave volunteer firefighters, whose own families and homes were experiencing storm-related issues, put themselves in harms way to protect the citizens they serve,” Brink said. “I'm extremely proud of all of them, and the public should be, too."


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