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Protect Your Family from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Contributed by Tim Ryan on 11/15/19 

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Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel can be sources of carbon monoxide.

With the cold season approaching, it’s a good time to review some important safety and prevention tips regarding Carbon Monoxide (CO). 

 Safety Tips

  • Have your home heating systems (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually by a trained service technician.
  • Never use portable generators inside homes or garages, even if doors and windows are open. Use generators outside only, far away from the home.
  • Never bring a charcoal grill into the house for heating or cooking. Do not barbeque in the garage.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating.
  • Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire and keep it open until the ashes are cool. An open damper may help prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home.
  • When warming a vehicle, move it out of the garage. Do not run a fueled engine indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not blocked.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel arrives.
  • Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion. If you suspect CO poisoning, get outside to fresh air immediately, and then call 911.

Know the Symptoms of CO Poisoning

Because CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

 High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

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