CARMEL,N.Y. - In the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias, which saw long lines at the few gas stations that were open during the subsequent blackout, County Executive MaryEllen Odell said she will ask county legislators to draft a law that would require all Putnam gas stations to have backup generators.
“[The storm] impacted people with home generators who were looking to replenish their gasoline supply, causing long lines at gas stations,” she said. “I am proposing to the legislature that we pass a local law requiring gas stations to have generators onsite, so it’s not just a few gas stations that are available for gasoline. They should all be required to have generator power, so we don’t have this issue anymore.”
Odell said some gas stations had to hire guards to direct traffic in and out and that a fight nearly broke out at one station when one customer tried to cut in line.
“I like to look at these situations and events as an opportunity to do better and to re-educate the public,” Odell said.
County officials also said residents who do have generators need to use them correctly to avoid dangerous situations such as fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
One homeowner was injured last Wednesday (Aug. 5) when he ran his generator from inside his garage and started a fire. The fire destroyed the garage and the homeowner sustained minor burns as a result.
“Never put a generator inside an enclosed building or a near a residence—within 5 feet of a house or a structure,” said Ken Clair, Putnam County deputy commissioner of emergency services. “I know people are without power, and they’re desperate to get it, and they’re hooking them up incorrectly, like running them in their garages.”
Clair said the county received a total of 51 carbon monoxide calls by Friday.
“All 51 of them actually had high carbon monoxide readings. At least they had alarms to alert them that there’s a problem in the residence,” he said. “When the fire departments go out, they’re finding situations that could easily have been corrected. People are running them in their garages, in their basements, next to the house with the windows open.
“If they are hooked up incorrectly, there can be surge to a lineman on a pole,” he continued. “They should be installed professionally. We were driving around yesterday and saw generators running all night long, in backs of pickup trucks. It’s just careless the stuff that’s going on.”
Odell said the county has a lot of new homeowners who are learning what it takes to own a home.
Clair said that from Tuesday to Thursday, at the outset of the storm, first responders answered 313 calls for fire and emergency medical services.
“The biggest thing we were facing out there were blocked roads, blocked driveways,” Clair said. “If someone needs an ambulance, how do we get there?”
In the first two days of Isaias-related emergencies, the county received more than a thousand 911 calls, Odell said, matching the numbers from 2018’s spring storm.
“Clearly the backbone of our community is the first responders,” she said.