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Carbon Monoxide Winter Storm Warning!

Fire Department
January 28, 2015

Carbon Monoxide Winter Storm Warning!

Winter snows can create drifts that block exhaust vents, forcing carbon monoxide gas (CO) to back-up into your home. High efficiency appliances and those with power-vent blowers by definition waste less heat, so the exhaust air temperature is very low. Often it is too low to melt snow in a plugged exhaust pipe or vent. Keep sidewall and direct vents clear of obstructions, drifting snow and bushes to provide proper ventilation. Hundreds of people accidentally die each year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. (EPA data) According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), carbon monoxide is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the U.S.

Carbon monoxide gas is produced whenever any fuel, such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned.  

Carbon monoxide (CO) enters the lungs and blood where it competes with oxygen normally carried by red blood cells. CO attaches to the cells 200 times easier than oxygen. Without oxygen cells begin to die.

Carbon Monoxide is: • Poisonous • Odorless • Colorless • Tasteless

Exposure to carbon monoxide can produce flu-like symptoms such as:

• headache • nausea • dizziness • confusion • fainting

At higher levels, CO exposure can cause:

• unconsciousness and then death

What to do if you suspect CO exposure

• Get out of the house or car and get fresh air.

• Call the fire department from a neighbor’s house.

• If you have symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

Protect your family:

• Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home, except unfinished basements or attics.

• Locate CO alarms near bedrooms so family members will awaken at night.

• Do not place a CO alarm in a garage, furnace room, near the stove or fireplace.

• Replace aging CO alarms every 5 -7 years according to directions.

• Follow installation instructions carefully.

Appliances and CO safety

If appliances that burn fuel are properly maintained and used, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions that come with fuel burning devices. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result.

• Have a qualified service technician inspect your appliances yearly, before the heating season.

• Check vent pipes, flues and chimneys for leaks or blockages.

• Never use a charcoal grill indoors!

• Do not use a gas oven to heat your home.

• Don’t leave a vehicle running inside a garage, even if the door is open, fumes will build up quickly inside the home.

• Snow can block car tailpipes outdoors.

• Never use gasoline-powered engines (generators, chain saws, blowers, weed trimmers, mowers or snow blowers) indoors or near doors or windows.