CANTON — With temperatures falling and residents turning their heating systems on for the first time since last winter, Chief Charles Doody would like to remind Canton residents to follow important carbon monoxide safety tips.
Known also as the “invisible killer,” carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, tasteless and poisonous gas produced whenever any fuel is burned, such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal. Other sources of CO include furnaces and water heaters, chimneys, wood stoves, grills, camping stoves, gas ovens and gas snow removal or yard equipment machines.
“People can be exposed to dangerously high levels of CO and not even know about it,” Chief Doody said. “Early symptoms are similar to the flu, which is why it’s especially important to make sure your home is safe, you know the warning signs of CO poisoning, and you’re prepared to act fast in case of a leak.”
Chief Doody says that all homes should have CO detectors and if a CO detector goes off in your home, all residents should leave the house immediately and call 911 from outside or from a neighbor’s house.
“Opening windows and doors can be helpful to ventilate the home, but in the event of a leak the best thing to do is seek fresh air outdoors,” Chief Doody said. “And it is recommended that residents not re-enter the home until emergency personnel arrive on scene.”
Any resident with questions regarding CO detectors can contact Lt. Tom Norton in the Fire Prevention Division, at [email protected] or 781-575-6654 ext. 3104, Chief Doody said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year, at least 430 people die and approximately 50,000 people visit the emergency room as a result of accidental CO poisoning in the United States.
Know the Symptoms
The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu, without the fever. They include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness.
High-level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness and ultimately death.
Installing Carbon Monoxide Alarms
According to the nonprofit organization Safe Kids Worldwide, residents should make sure they have a working carbon monoxide alarm installed on every level of their home, especially near sleeping areas. Alarms should be tested every month and replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
It is also important to have both CO alarms and smoke detectors in your home. Combination CO/smoke alarms are available, but if you have separate alarms for both, make sure you know the different sound of each alarm in order to react properly in case of an emergency.
Additional Safety Procedures
The Canton Fire Department recommends that residents follow these safety procedures outlined by the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services:
- Before the heating season every year, have a qualified service technician inspect your appliances.
- Check vent pipes, flues and chimneys for leaks or blockages.
- Always make sure furnace and dryer exhaust vents are clear of snow.
- Use care when shoveling out vehicles, and be sure the tail pipe and undercarriage are free of snow before turning on the engine.
- Don’t leave a vehicle running inside a garage, even if the door is open. Fumes will quickly build up inside a home if the two spaces are connected.
- Never use a charcoal grill or gasoline-powered engines (generators, chain saws, blowers, weed trimmers, mowers, or snow blowers) indoors or near doors or windows.
- Place grills and generators outside, facing away from doors, windows and vents.
- Do not use a gas oven to heat your home.
- Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home within 10 feet of bedrooms. Do not place a CO alarm in a garage or near the stove or fireplace. Always install an alarm according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Locate CO alarms near bedrooms so family members will wake up if the alarm goes off at night. Alarms should be kept away from open windows or doors, excessively hot, cold or damp areas and “dead-air spaces,” such as corners of rooms and peaks of ceilings.
- To ensure that carbon monoxide alarms are functioning properly, they should be replaced every five to seven years according to directions. After a prolonged power outage, back-up batteries should be checked.
For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning, visit the Department of Fire Services website.