Each year throughout the country, unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning claims more than 400 lives and sends another 20,000 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment.
Understanding the Risk
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your 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: 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 that unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with heart or lung problems are at even greater risk for CO poisoning.
What Actions Do I Take if My Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off?
- Evacuate all occupants immediately.
- Determine if any occupants are ill and their symptoms.
- Call 911.
- Do not re-enter the home without the approval of the fire department officers.
- 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 (UL). Carbon monoxide 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 your range or oven to help heat your home and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your 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 carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event of CO buildup.
Gather all family members together in a predetermined meeting place and check to be sure everyone is present.
Call 9-1-1. Leave the building immediately. Do not re-enter until responders say it is safe to do so.
Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas. There will be no smoke or haze to betray its presence. Exposure to carbon monoxide can be fatal.
Be sure to review the instructions included with your carbon monoxide detector. These instructions will familiarize you with proper mounting and operation of your detector. Did you know that there are specific sequences of beeps which denote varying conditions of your detector? Be sure to review your manual for these varying tones.