A shut-off switch was supposed to prevent 99% of generator-related deaths. It failed a family of three.
Generator makers claim automatic shut-off switches can prevent most carbon monoxide poisoning deaths, but the CPSC says the industry standard falls short of what’s necessary to reduce fatalities.
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The generator industry’s promised fix for deadly carbon monoxide poisoning was put to the test last year on a narrow patio outside Demetrice Johnson’s home after Hurricane Ida plunged much of Louisiana into darkness.
Johnson’s brand-new generator — equipped with a safety mechanism that manufacturers have said prevents “more than 99%” of carbon monoxide poisoning deaths — hummed into the night, inches from her family’s back door on Sept. 1, 2021, powering an air conditioner and a refrigerator.
If carbon monoxide levels got too high, the generator was designed to automatically sense the danger and trigger a shut-off switch.
But by the time emergency responders entered the three-bedroom brick house in Jefferson Parish the next morning, Johnson and her children, 17-year-old Craig Curley Jr. and 23-year-old Dasjonay Curley, were dead. They had been poisoned by exhaust fumes that flowed from the generator into their home, according to a sheriff’s office report, exposing a safety deficiency that federal officials and consumer advocates have warned about.