As many individuals/families gear up for colder weather, we begin using fuel-burning space heaters and portable generators that may release harmful carbon monoxide (CO) gas. The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year, carbon monoxide poisoning sends more than 20,000 people to emergency rooms and claims nearly 400 lives nationwide.
Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer - it is odorless, tasteless, colorless, and toxic. It can poison the body quickly in high concentrations, or slowly over long periods of time. Home appliances are primary CO sources and the CDC reports that 64 percent of all carbon monoxide poisonings occur at home.
Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning, but infants, pregnant women and people with physical conditions that limit their ability to use oxygen, such as emphysema, asthma or heart disease, can be more severely affected by low concentrations of CO than healthy adults. High levels of CO can be fatal for anyone, causing death within minutes.
The goal of the Englewood Fire Department is to reduce the number of carbon monoxide incidents in Englewood and discourage anyone from using the range or oven to heat their home.
To help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in homes, these tips are suggested:
- Never use portable electric generators, charcoal grills, camp stoves, or other similar devices inside your home, basement, garage or in any confined area that can allow carbon monoxide to collect. Follow usage directions closely.
- Have your chimney, fireplace, wood stoves, flues and furnaces inspected professionally before every heating season and cleaned, if necessary.
- Turn off space heaters before leaving a room or going to sleep. Supervise children and pets at all times when a portable space heater is in use.
- Never run your car engine for more than a few moments in a garage or other enclosed area, even if the door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up very quickly and can spread to the living area of your home.
- Look for clues that home appliances may be malfunctioning or emitting toxic gas. Common indicators to look for include: decreased hot water supply, soot on appliances and vents, increased moisture inside windows and furnaces unable to heat properly.
- Install at least one carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home and near sleeping areas. If possible, have your detector connected to a monitoring center that operates 24/7. Constant monitoring keeps you safe from poisonous CO gas that can cause fatigue, dizziness, unconsciousness and possibly death, if undetected.
- CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and CO alarms.
- Test CO alarms at least once a month.
- If your CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window and door and call 9-1-1 for help. Remain at the fresh air location until emergency personnel say it is okay to re-enter.
- If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries or other trouble indicators.
The NFPA and CPSC announce a new Carbon Monoxide Alarm Safety Toolkit. Visit the NFPA website for more information.
The Englewood Fire Department wants everyone to be warm and safe this winter. Please make certain your home has carbon monoxide alarms.
For more information, contact the Fire Marshal at 303-762-2365.