Carbon Monoxide Safety

Carbon Monoxide Is Dangerous

Hundreds of people die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning each year and is serious threat no matter the season, but colder 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.

A Killer You Can't See

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, colorless, odorless, tasteless, nonirritating, and toxic gas. CO is produced when burning common fuels including wood, coal, charcoal, natural gas, gasoline, propane, oil, and methane (for example a running automobile or other gas or diesel engines). As people look for alternatives for electricity and home heating, they need to be aware that the risk of CO poisoning can increase with some .

CO poisoning takes place over time as blood absorbs the gas through the lungs, just like oxygen. The gas replaces oxygen, causing suffocation of the body tissue and organs. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning, and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, or headaches.

The Fitchburg Fire Department and NFPA suggest the following safety tips to avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide:

  • Install at least one CO alarms (listed by an independent testing laboratory) on each floor of your home
  • 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.