The Kimberley Fire Department has been issuing warnings on social media about the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO).
Fire Chief Rick Prasad says that in Kimberley, there have been some near misses due to cars left running in the garage, furnaces that require repairs, and misuse of equipment.
“In all cases we were called because the carbon monoxide alarm had gone off. It is safe to assume, without a CO alarm these cases may have ended in tragedy,” Prasad said.
He says CO is called the invisible killer because you cannot see CO or smell it.
“This poisonous gas can come from many sources, including cars, malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters; and engine-powered equipment such as portable generators. Burning charcoal in fireplaces or in barbecue grills inside a home, or in semi-enclosed areas can also result in lethal carbon monoxide levels. Sustained exposure to high levels of CO can quickly incapacitate and kill you.”
As he noted above, your best protection is to have a good CO alarm.
Make sure to have working CO alarms in the home on every level and outside each separate sleeping area. CO alarms are designed to alarm before potentially life-threatening levels of carbon monoxide are reached.
If you choose a plug-in type CO alarm, make sure that the alarm also has battery backup. This ensures that the CO alarm will continue to work if the electricity goes out, which is particularly important in many situations when portable generators are used. Replace batteries in alarms according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Test alarms once a month to make sure they are working.
“Almost all homes have at least one smoke alarm. However, carbon monoxide alarms are much less common. A housing survey asked if the household had a working carbon monoxide alarm. Only two out of five said “yes.””
CO alarms have varied expiration dates, but if unsure, consider replacing it, Prasad says. “Many newer CO alarms now have end-of-life indicators. Replace all CO alarms according to manufacturer’s instructions, or when the end-of-life signal sounds.
“Install CO alarms that meet the current safety standard requirements. CPSC recommends buying alarms that meet the UL 2034 safety standard. Look for UL or CSA listings on the packaging.”
At low levels, CO poisoning symptoms can include dizziness, headache or flu-like symptoms. At high levels, victims can have mental confusion, vomiting, and they can die. At extremely high levels, it is possible to lose consciousness suddenly without experiencing less severe symptoms.
Sometimes, your pet may be the first one to exhibit symptoms. Smaller than you, your pet also spends more time in the home.
“Proper installation, operation, and maintenance of fuel-burning appliances in the home is the most important factor in reducing the risk of CO poisoning,” said Prasad
“Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Most appliances should be installed by qualified professionals.
“Consumers should have their heating system inspected by a qualified professional and serviced every year to make sure the system is working properly. Inspections should also include checking for proper exhaust ventilation through vents chimneys and flues.
“Portable generators must be operated outside only. Never operate one inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace, shed, or in a semi-enclosed space like a porch close to the house. Keep generators, as well as any other equipment with an engine in it, at least 20 feet away from the house. Poisonous carbon monoxide from portable generators can kill you and your family in minutes.”