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Carbon Monoxide Safety

November 19, 2012

As the weather gets cooler and we all hunker down for the fast approaching winter, it’s a good time to think seriously about carbon monoxide (CO) safety. Hundreds of people in the United States die every year from CO poisoning from the improper use or functioning of consumer products. Fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves, portable generators, and automobiles can all pose a threat of CO poisoning if not property maintained and operated.

Prevention is the key. We recommend that all homes be equipped with CO alarms, but don’t rely on CO alarms exclusively. Here are some tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe:

• Make sure all appliances have been installed following the manufactures instructions as well as local building codes.
• Have your heating system inspected and serviced by a qualified professional annually, before you start using them for the season. Make sure all chimneys and flues are also inspected for damage, blockages, disconnections, or loose connections.
• Never use fuel-burning engines, such as portable generators, indoors or in an enclosed area. When operating outside, make sure they are a safe distance from doors, windows, and openings to the building.
• Never use an oven or range to heat your home.
• Read and follow all instructions when using fuel-burning heaters indoors or in an enclosed space and be sure to provide adequate ventilation.
• Only use heaters and appliances that have been tested and labeled by a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
• Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in an area where people are sleeping.
• Never leave a vehicle running in a garage, even if the door is open. CO can quickly fill the space and/or leak into your living space.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and mental confusion. Because the symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu and other illnesses, you may not realize that it is being caused by CO. To be on the safe side, go outside into the fresh air. If more than one person is displaying symptoms, this is an indication that it may be CO poisoning.

If you suspect that you may have CO poisoning or the CO alarm in your home goes off, do not waste time trying to figure out the source. Go outside into the fresh air immediately, and then call 911 or your local fire department from outside the house. Make sure everyone is accounted for, and if not, inform the emergency response personnel. Do not reenter the home until the emergency personnel tell you that it is safe to do so. When you find out the source of the CO, do not use that appliance again until it has been checked by a qualified professional.

For more information on CO poisoning and how to prevent it, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn more about fire and emergency safety.


Article by: April LaRita Green

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