FIRE SAFETY - Taking simple steps can prevent CO poisoning
Each year in America, more than 150 people die from accidental non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning associated with consumer products. These products include faulty, improperly-used or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances, like furnaces, stoves, water heaters and fireplaces, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Several simple steps can be taken to protect Families from deadly carbon monoxide fumes, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
What is carbon monoxide?
CO is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill people before they are aware it is in their home. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person-to-person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.
Where does carbon monoxide come from?
CO gas can come from several sources, including gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces and motor vehicles.
Who is at risk?
Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Medical experts believe unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with heart or lung problems are at even greater risk for CO poisoning.
What needs to be done if a carbon monoxide alarm goes off depends on whether anyone is feeling ill or not.
If no one is feeling ill:
• Silence the alarm.
• Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion, like furnaces and fireplaces.
• Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows.
• Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup.
If illness is a factor:
• Evacuate all occupants immediately.
• Determine how many occupants are ill, and determine their symptoms.
• Call the local emergency number, and when relaying information to the dispatcher, include the number of people feeling ill.
• Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative.
• Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO.
Protect yourself and your Family from CO poisoning.
• Install at least one carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal near the sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms. Make sure the alarm has been evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories. CO alarms measure levels of CO over time and are designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It is very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear the alarm. This does not mean that CO is not present.
• Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems at least once a year.
• Never use a range or oven to help heat a home, and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in a home or garage.
• Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
• When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house. The presence of a CO alarm in a home can save lives in the event of CO buildup.