Winter Park, FL – Many don’t know the dangers of carbon monoxide, but someone very important to us here at News 6 does, and her family had to learn it the hard way.
Fortunately, she’s sharing her story in hopes of helping others stay safe when dealing with generators.
A typical Friday night took a turn for the worse when News 6 employee Melinda Ethington took a call from her 14-year-old daughter Peyton while at an appointment after work.
Peyton was at home and told her mom she wasn’t feeling well. There was an odor in the air that was giving her a headache. The two dismissed the smell as either someone burning food or paint somewhere in the building, since it was being worked on at the time.
[QUIZ: How much do you know about carbon monoxide safety? | What to know about generator safety, carbon monoxide poisoning]
When Ethington returned home, she realized that was not the case. She said she can still remember the unfamiliar smell.
“I opened the door and there was just a smell that was just…strong,” Ethington said.
Ethington started feeling lightheaded after being in the apartment for 30 minutes. She called 911 after encouragement from her parents, who live states away.
The emergency dispatch told Ethington to get her daughter and to get out of the apartment immediately. She remembers firefighters arriving shortly after the call.
“They had their carbon monoxide monitors out,” Ethington said. “At that time, they had said there was carbon monoxide in my apartment and it was at a lethal dose.”
Medics immediately started giving her daughter oxygen. Peyton recalls the moment she felt most scared.
“I was gonna die. I thought I was gonna die,” she said.
After she was rushed to the hospital, Ethington said they started Peyton on pure oxygen and were very close to putting her in a hypobaric chamber.
They later learned the teen had been exposed to carbon monoxide for hours from a generator that was left running without proper ventilation. The machine wasn’t even in their apartment. It was left in a storage unit just below them on the first floor by a contractor who had been working on the building.
The lethal gas had seeped through the vents, unknowingly exposing Ethington, her daughter and several of their neighbors.
Though you may not expect it to come from an area you’re not responsible for, carbon monoxide can find its way to you without you even knowing, which is why experts say you should be aware of anything that seems out of the ordinary.
“It will find any kind of gap or crack or anything it can (get) through and it’s odorless,” Dusty Herbert said.
With more than 40 years of experience, Herbert, an electrical manager with Complete Power Resources, said it’s all about location and proper use of the generator to stay safe.
Many people who use the machines place them too close to windows, doors and vents. The exhaust needs proper ventilation, which means it should be at least 10 feet from your home, according to Herbert.
Herbert also pointed out that after hurricanes, generators are valuable targets for thieves. Keep them properly stored to prevent others from taking them and using them improperly.
“Chain it to something just to make it hard on the thief. You know, if they want it bad enough, they’re going to steal it.” Herbert said.
Both he and Ethington agree the price of a generator is not worth risking your life over.
Ethington takes all precautions around her home to be ready if and when the time comes for her to use a generator.
One thing she wants everyone to know is that taking action will save your life.
Ethington recalls the following words a firefighter said that day that she said will stick with her for a lifetime:
“The firefighter said, had we not called 911, they would have responded to deaths, and my daughter and I would have been the first two to have passed.”