Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, which is dangerous to humans. It is almost impossible for an unaided person to detect CO, which is why it is often called ‘The Silent Killer.’ Each year approximately 500 people in the US die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Many of these deaths could have been prevented with a few simple precautions.
Carbon Monoxide is released when a carbon-based fuel (oil, propane, kerosene, wood, natural gas, charcoal etc.) does not fully combust. This may occur when an appliance is not functioning adequately or is used improperly. Luckily there are some simple steps you can take to make sure you and your family are safe.
Steps for PREVENTION:
1. Have your heating system, water heaters and gas ranges inspected every year, no matter the fuel you use.
2. Ensure that your appliances are properly maintained and ventilated. If you are not sure, call a licensed contractor and have them inspect your appliances and answer your questions.
3. Keep all sidewall vents clear of brush and snow.
4. Never run a vehicle or generator in the garage or basement of your home, even if the door or windows are open.
5. Inspect your chimney for blockages. You never know what Santa may have left behind that could cause inadequate venting of your fireplace.
6. Use your oven for heating your food, not your house.
7. Never use a grill or portable stove in an enclosed area (even if you’re camping and it’s raining and really, really cold outside).
8. Do not use or install an unvented room heater, space heater or gas fireplace.
Steps for DETECTION:
1. Install CO detectors in your home, with battery back-up. It is best to have multiple CO detectors and the models with a numerical readout are preferred.
2. If you have symptoms such as:
a. Shortness of breath
And you suspect CO poisoning follow the following evacuation procedure.
Steps for EVACUATION:
If you suspect you have been exposed to high levels of CO seek fresh air immediately and remain outside. Call 911 and ask for both the Fire Department and an Ambulance. Seek medical attention immediately for yourself and others who are exhibiting the symptoms listed above.
Handy Hint: CO detectors cost only a few dollars and most models only require their batteries to be changed about every other year. You will know when the batteries need to be changed because it will start to make that annoying chirping sound like smoke detectors do. Invest a few dollars and it could save your life and the lives of your loved ones.