Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month
Since the late 2000s, many states, local governments and home safety organizations have declared a “Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month” observance. The first such observance is recognized in November, while others occur throughout the cold weather months. Why? Along with snow and ice, colder temperatures usher in an increased threat of carbon monoxide (CO), which kills more people in the winter months than any other time of year.
During the winter months, many of us turn to alternative heating sources we might not use at other times of the year. While these devices may be effective at providing warmth, they also can pose great risks if not used properly.
CO sources may include, but are not limited to, heaters, furnaces, appliances or cooking sources using coal, wood, petroleum products or other fuels emitting CO as a by-product of combustion. Attached garages with doors, ductwork or ventilation shafts connected to a living space also are sources of CO.
Often dubbed “the silent killer,” CO is a colorless and odorless gas that is impossible to detect without an alarm. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, CO poisoning is the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the United States and is responsible for an average of 450 deaths each year.
Compounding the issue and concern is that CO poisoning is notoriously difficult to diagnose – often until it’s too late. The symptoms mimic those of many other illnesses including nausea, headaches, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and vomiting. In more severe poisoning cases, people may experience disorientation or unconsciousness, or suffer long-term neurological disabilities, cardiorespiratory failure or death.
Protect Against CO Poisoning
First Alert recommends the following tips and tools for keeping your home and loved ones safe this winter:
- Install/test CO alarms. CO alarms are the only way to detect this poisonous gas. For as little as $20, a First Alert CO alarm can help protect a home and family from potential tragedy. Install alarms on every level of the home and near each sleeping area for maximum protection. Test alarm function monthly and change batteries every six months.
- Have fuel-burning appliances inspected regularly. Arrange for a professional inspection of all fuel-burning appliances (such as furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers, water heaters and space heaters) annually to detect any CO leaks.
- Run kitchen vents or exhaust fans anytime the stove is in use. The kitchen stove is among the most frequent sources of CO poisoning in the home. To help eliminate danger of overexposure, always run exhaust fans when cooking, especially during the holidays when stoves are left on for longer periods of time. Also open a nearby window periodically when cooking to allow fresh air to circulate.
- Never use generators indoors. In the case of a power outage, portable electric generators must be used outside only. Never use them inside the home, in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect. And, be careful to follow operating instructions closely. Also refrain from using charcoal grills, camp stoves and other similar devices indoors.
- Be mindful of the garage. Never leave a car running in an attached garage. Even if the garage door is open, CO emissions can leak into the home.
- Know whom to call. If a CO alarm sounds, leave the home immediately and call 911.
Additional CO Alarm Guidelines
- Clear CO alarms of all dust and debris.
- Ensure that alarms are plugged all the way into the outlet or, if battery operated, have working batteries installed. Check or replace batteries when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
- Make certain each person can hear the CO alarm sound from his or her sleeping room and that the sound is loud enough to awaken everyone.
- Make sure alarms are installed at least 15 feet away from sources of CO to reduce the chance of false alarms.