State Officials Offer Health/Safety Advice in Aftermath of Western New York Lake-Effect Snowstorm

New York State
Emergency Management Office
John R. Gibb
Contact: Dennis Michalski
Department of Health
Antonia C. Novello, M.D. M.P.H, Dr.P.H.
Contact: Marc Carey
518-474-7354, ext. 1

ALBANY, NY, October 13, 2006 - State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.PH. and State Emergency Management Office Director John R. Gibb today issued health and safety advice to Western New York residents who are coping with the effects of the recent lake-effect snowstorm. Both cautioned that the storm's aftermath can present serious risks, particularly to people who are frail or elderly.

"If you know of someone who is alone and might need help, please check on their welfare," Dr. Novello said. "Older individuals are particularly vulnerable to cold temperatures, and shouldn't try to stay in their homes during a long power outage. Even if they still have electricity, they may need help digging out."

"Before beginning to shovel, people should take some extra precautions because the snow that has fallen is heavier and even more difficult to shovel," Director Gibb said. "And while we are doing everything possible to get the roads open and the electric power back on, we also remind people to use some common sense during this emergency. Never run generators indoors, never use charcoal to cook indoors, and never use a gas oven to heat the residence. Think safety first."

Physical activity

Cleaning up from a snowstorm is hard work. Before you pick up a snow shovel, consider your physical condition. If you have cardiac problems or high blood pressure, follow your doctor's orders about shoveling or performing any strenuous exercise outside. Even otherwise-healthy adults should remember to dress appropriately and work slowly when doing heavy outdoor chores.

Generator safety

Never run a generator inside your home, basement or attached garage. Generators should only be operated outside, away from open windows. Carbon monoxide in the generator's fumes can build up and cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which can lead to death.

Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Overloading your generator can damage it and any appliances connected to it. Fire may result. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions. Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion.

If your generator has a detachable fuel tank, remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.

Alternate Heating Sources

If you use a fireplace, wood stove, or portable kerosene heater to stay warm, be sure there is adequate ventilation to the outside. Without enough fresh air, carbon monoxide fumes can build up in your home. Never use a natural gas or propane stove/oven to heat your home. If you are using a kerosene heater, use 1-K grade kerosene only. Never substitute with fuel oil, diesel, gasoline or yellow (regular) kerosene.

Open a window to provide ventilation when a portable kerosene heater is in use to reduce carbon monoxide fumes inside the home. If you plan to cook on a barbeque grill or camp stove, remember these also produce carbon monoxide and are for outdoor use only.

Fire safety

When adding fuel to a space heater, or wood to a wood stove or fireplace, wear non-flammable gloves and clothing. Never add fuel to a space heater when it is hot. The fuel can ignite, burning you and your home. Keep the heater away from objects that can burn, such as furniture, rugs or curtains. If you have a fire extinguisher, keep it nearby. Be careful with candles—never leave them burning if you leave the room. Keep children away from space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves to avoid accidental burns.

Food safety

During a power outage, open your refrigerator and freezer as little as possible. Eat the most perishable items first, such as leftovers, meat, poultry and food containing milk, cream, sour cream, or soft cheese.

Despite your best efforts, the food in your freezer may partially or completely thaw before power is restored. Foods that have completely thawed, but are still cold and have been kept cold for no longer than one or two days after thawing, may be eaten or refrozen under certain conditions:

Fruits may be eaten or refrozen if they still taste and smell good.

Do not eat or refreeze vegetables that have thawed completely since bacteria multiple rapidly in them.

Meat and poultry should be thrown away if their color or odor is poor or questionable, or if they have been held at a temperature warmer then 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours. Fish and shellfish should not be eaten or refrozen once they have thawed.

Remember the general rule: When in doubt, throw it out!

More information is available at and