Winter is well underway, and with the state of the economy we are all trying to make more ends meet with less. Be aware of the dangers related to the use of portable or temporary heat sources and carbon monoxide (CO). Illinois law directs carbon monoxide detectors be within fifteen feet of any room used for sleeping. This law was enacted January 1, 2007. Since then CO related emergency responses have been on the rise. The thought being now that there are more carbon monoxide detectors, there should be more calls. The frightening thing with this logic is; what was happening prior to January 1, 2007? Were people thinking they had the flu or were they suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide is the product of incomplete combustion, so it is present anywhere there is a flame or something burning. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, attaching itself to the hemoglobin in your blood many times stronger then that of oxygen, hence blocking your body’s ability to use oxygen effectively. Low levels of carbon monoxide in your home may be tolerated for a time. In some workplaces low levels (4-8 parts per million) of carbon monoxide are present and acceptable for short term exposure. Zero parts per million should be the norm in your residence.
Several items around the home produce carbon monoxide including the range/oven, furnace, water heater, fireplace, and your car. The CO produced in day to day activities around your home needs to be exhausted from your home. Carbon Monoxide detectors can and will save lives in our community. Like smoke alarms, CO detectors must be in place and operational to be effective. Then, we need to pay attention to those “noses that never sleep” as we call them. These detection devices notify us early of dangerous conditions for safe quick evacuation of the area.
Detection devices do work. Accumulation of elevated levels of carbon monoxide in most cases can be eliminated or reduced. Have furnace and water heater units regularly serviced by a qualified service company. Change the filter in the furnace as recommended by the manufacture. The fireplace should not be forgotten; the chimney must be routinely inspected and cleaned, again by a qualified chimney service company. While cooking run the vent fan in the hood over the stove. If the stove/oven isn’t vented to the outside, open a window nearby to allow for fresh air ventilation. Never run the car in the garage for more than the time to drive in or out.
Caution should always be used when portable kerosene heating devices are used in the home. Never leave a portable heater of any kind unattended for even a short time. What to do when the CO detector goes off is dependent on whether anyone in the home is ill. If no one is ill:
1. Silence the alarm.
2. Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion.
3. Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening windows and doors. 4. Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO build up.
If illness is a factor:
1. EVACUATE all occupants immediately.
2. Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their symptoms.
3. Call the local emergency number (in DeKalb county 911) and include the number feeling ill when relaying info to dispatch.
4. DO NOT re-enter the home without fire department approval.
Please contact the DeKalb Fire Prevention Bureau with questions related to carbon monoxide or fire prevention in the home