Since Sandy, many people have acquired backup generators to keep the lights on in the event of a future emergency, but officials warn they have to be used safely.

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State Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd says the portable devices produce exhaust gases, and that's not a problem if they are properly placed outside and away from your home.

O'Dowd says improper use indoors or in a garage can bring poisonous carbon monoxide into your body, sometimes without your even realizing it.

"At very low levels, it can cause headaches, sleepiness, fatigue and confusion. At higher levels, it can result in nausea, vomiting, impaired vision and even death," O'Dowd explained.

If you are using a generator and suspect CO poisoning take immediate action including:

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately if a person is not breathing, is unconscious or unresponsive, or having seizures or convulsions.
  • Exit the home/building/enclosed space immediately.
  • Contact your local fire department.
  • From a safe area, call the NJ Poison Experts at 800-222-1222, for immediate treatment advice.

Health Commissioner O'Dowd says there were 14 cases of CO2 poisoning in Jersey in the two weeks prior to Sandy last year. The number of cases soared to almost 400 in the two weeks after the storm.