Cold Temperatures Increase Risk of Carbon Monoxide

With cold weather in the forecast the risk of exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) will rise as temperatures fall.  Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas and is referred to by firefighters and paramedics as the “The Silent Killer.” The reference to the “silent killer” is due to the properties of CO (colorless, odorless and tasteless) make it nearly impossible to detect without monitoring equipment. A working CO detector is the best method citizens and residents can use to detect the presence of CO. CO alarms are inexpensive and can be purchased at hardware and home improvement stores

CO results from incomplete oxidation of carbon in combustion and/or the inadequate ventilation of CO after normal combustion. Sources of CO include unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages.

NOW is the time to contact a certified technician to clean and examine your heating equipment.  This function should be performed annually and before full time use of your furnace and chimney.

CO Poisoning Prevention Tips

• Install a 10-year tamper proof with hush feature smoke alarm and CO detector on each level of your home and near sleeping areas, and make sure it is more than 5 feet from fuel-burning appliances to prevent false alarms.

• Ensure that fuel-burning appliances are properly installed and working according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Inspect these appliances for adequate ventilation.

• Do not burn charcoal inside your house, even in the fireplace.

• Do not use gasoline-powered generators inside of your house.

• Keep chimneys clear of animal nests, leaves and residue to ensure proper venting.

• Do not block or seal shut exhaust flues or ducts for appliances, such as water heaters, ranges and clothes dryers.

If It Happens to You

• Never ignore your CO detectors if it sounds.

• Operate test/reset button.

• Determine if anyone in the household is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning such as a headache, nausea, drowsiness or confusion. Call 911.

• Open doors and windows, or exit your home. Leave the CO alarm where it is.

• If you have an alarm with digital display, emergency responders can determine the highest level of CO present and decide how to treat victims

• Do not return to your home until the emergency personnel have arrived, the home is aired out and your CO alarm returns to normal operation.

The best protection a family can provide for themselves is to have a working smoke alarm and CO detector in their home.  These devices should be tested on the first day of every month and battery’s changed at least once-a-year.  These lifesaving alarms, when properly maintained, work every second of every day protecting you but they don’t work forever.  CO detectors should be replaced every 8 years and smoke alarms every 10 years.

Any resident that is in need of a smoke alarm and/or CO detector, and cannot afford to purchase one, can contact our Safety First Alarm Program at 301-864-SAFE (7233) and request one.  A firefighter will come to your home, at a mutually agreeable time, to provide and install the alarm for you.

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