Carbon Monoxide Safety

Carbon Monoxide Is Dangerous
Hundreds of people die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning each year and it remains a serious threat no matter the season, but activities that typically increases with the onset of winter weather conditions pose an even greater risk. The Fitchburg Fire Department and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) urges the public to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and to take measures to ensure safe practices.

Many deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning could have been prevented by installing carbon monoxide alarms in the home to alert residents of its lethal levels before it is too late.

A Killer You Can't See
Carbon monoxide is an invisible, colorless, odorless, tasteless, nonirritating, and toxic gas. CO poisoning takes place overtime as blood-absorb the gas through lungs by breathing, just like oxygen. The gas replaces oxygen-causing suffocation of the body tissue and organs. The gas is produced by burning wood, coal, charcoal, natural gas, gasoline, propane, oil, methane, and other common fuels. It is also produced by automobiles and other gasoline or diesel engines.

As people look for alternatives for electricity and home heating, they should be aware that the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is sometimes elevated with supplemental equipment that is often used.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning, and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light-headed, or headaches.

The Fitchburg Fire Department and NFPA suggest the following safety tips to avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide:
  • Install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms (listed by an independent testing laboratory) inside your home to provide early warning of accumulating CO. CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each separate sleeping area. If bedrooms are spaced apart, each area will need a CO alarm
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month and replace alarms according to the manufacturer's instructions
  • CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and CO alarms
  • Have fuel-burning heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood and coal stoves, space or portable heaters) and chimneys inspected by a professional every year before cold weather sets in
  • When using a fireplace, open the flue for adequate ventilation
  • Never use your oven or grill to heat your home
  • When buying an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle, generator, or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open.Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide detectors are available at area hardware and department stores. Be sure to select an Underwriters Laboratories INC. (UL) listed detector. For maximum protection, two CO detectors are recommended per household; one located near the sleeping area, the other outside the furnace room.