How You Can Prevent Deadly Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
In 2009, West Seneca, N.Y., teen Amanda Hansen, lost her life to the silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO). She had decided to sleep over at a close friend’s house. The girls had no way of knowing that while they slept in the basement, they were being poisoned by carbon monoxide. Amanda never woke up.
In 2008, a high school senior took his own life in the garage attached to his home with carbon monoxide poisoningjust days before Christmas. He never felt a thing but slept silently away…
Causes of CO Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is deadly. When power outages occur after severe weather (such as snow storms, hurricanes or tornadoes), using alternative sources of power can cause carbon monoxide gas to build up in a home and poison the people and animals inside.
Carbon monoxide is found in fumes produced by portable generators, stoves, lanterns, and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. Carbon monoxide from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO.
CO Poisoning Is Deadly – But Preventable
Every year, nearly 500 people die in the U. S. from accidental CO poisoning. Everyone should be aware of the potential dangers of this poisonous gas and take steps to protect himself from this silent assassin. Homeowners can easily prevent this tragedy from happening in their homes and to their families by paying attention to the following:
Know Amanda’s Law: Effective February 22, 2010 CO Alarms must be installed in ALL NEW AND EXISTING one and two-family dwellings and rentals having any fuel-burning appliances, system or attached garage. Homes built before this time are permitted to have battery-powered CO alarms, while homes built after this date are required to have alarms hard-wired into the building. Previously, only homes built or bought after July 30, 2002 were required to have these devices installed, Amanda’s Law will require contractors in New York state to install CO alarms when replacing a hot water tank or furnace if the home is not equipped with an alarm.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends CO Alarms be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.
The law also requires existing one-and two-family residences to have at least one carbon monoxide alarm installed on the lowest floor of the building having a sleeping area. The alarm must be clearly audible over background noise levels in all sleeping areas with all intervening doors closed.
In addition to installing carbon monoxide alarms, the Office of Fire Prevention and Control also wants to remind homeowners to take the following actions to help reduce their risk and stay safe:
- Check or change the batteries in your CO detector every six months. If you don’t have a battery-powered or battery back-up CO detector, buy one soon.
- Test and/or replace according to the manufacturers instructions.
- Have heating systems, vents, chimneys and flues tested, inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician each year.
- Never leave your car running in an attached garage.
- Regularly examine vents and chimneys for improper connections, rust, soot or other debris.
- Never use a gas oven to heat a home.
- Remember that carbon monoxide alarms are not a substitute for smoke alarms.
How to Recognize CO Poisoning
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.
- Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
- Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
- Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.
- Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
- Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper. If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter.
- If CO poisoning is suspected, consult a health care professional right away.
CO poisoning is entirely preventable. You can protect yourself and your family by acting wisely in case of a power outage, learning the symptoms of CO poisoning and replacing carbon monoxide detectors every five (5) years in order to benefit from the latest technology and upgrades.