Carbon monoxide (CO), often referred to as the “silent killer,” is a colorless and odorless gas that is impossible to detect without a sensing device. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, CO poisoning is a leading cause of accidental poisonings in the U.S. and is responsible for an average of 450 deaths each year.
In a continued effort to combat the “silent killer,” a protection measure, known as the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC 2009), was put into place in Alabama in 2012. This code required CO alarms in newly constructed one- and two-story bedroom homes and town homes not more than three stories. Since that time, other states have followed through with similar implementation and countless lives have been saved from the dangers of this invisible and potentially fatal gas.
There are many sources of potential carbon monoxide in your home. Any fuel-burning appliance, including heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances, and cooking sources using coal, wood, or petroleum products need to be inspected by a certified licensed technician to ensure they are safe. Two other critical things to help combat the danger of CO is to educate yourself and family on the dangers of carbon monoxide and develop a family escape plan in the event of a CO emergency.
Because CO detectors only have a lifespan of approximately five to seven years, any detectors manufactured in or before 2012 are likely due for replacement. According to Oneonta Fire and Rescue Community Risk Reduction Officer Jonathan Ledbetter, “Carbon monoxide alarms should be tested at least once a month and replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.”
Ledbetter reminded people to make sure they have a CO alarm. He said, “Not all smoke alarms are dual purpose CO alarms. Make sure that you confirm that you have a dual purpose CO/smoke detector alarm or that you install separate CO alarms to supplement your smoke alarms in your home.”
In addition to replacing the CO detectors, other important safety precautions need to be adhered to such as:
• Testing the alarms regularly
• Have fuel-burning appliances inspected regularly
• Never use a generator indoors
• Refrain from using appliances such as furnaces, camp stoves, and other similar devices indoors
• Have fuel-burning appliances (furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers, and water heaters inspected regularly)
• Plan your escape by identifying two ways out of each room, practicing twice yearly, and have a designated meeting place
• Call 911 if the alarm sounds. Leave the building immediately and do not go back into the home until is has been inspected and cleared
Because of silent dangers, making sure one has adequate detection devices is extremely important. Oneonta Fire and Rescue Chief Kenneth Booth said, “Carbon monoxide is a very dangerous gas and can be very harmful, even in the smallest quantities. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, invisible gas that can be produced by several common household items. It can be very dangerous without a carbon monoxide detector, which is what makes carbon monoxide detectors so important in the home.
“Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning like headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, and confusion can often be mistaken for many other medical conditions and at night during sleep can go unrecognized until it’s too late. Carbon monoxide detectors provide the early warnings that could make the difference in life or death.”