Requests for the fire service to investigate Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms generally increase around this time of year, as the temperatures begin to dip, windows close, and heating systems are used to maintain indoor comfort levels. The vast majority of these cases are alarm malfunctions, often arising from expired detectors, or dead batteries. Sometimes, however, the threat is real, requiring trained intervention.
Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas which results from impure or incomplete combustion. In amounts as little as ten parts per million, it can be harmful, and with enough concentration or length of exposure, can be lethal. It’s important to have a CO detector on each level of your home, replace the batteries every six months, and replace the detectors at the date specified by their manufacturer.
If you have a high-efficiency furnace, be sure to keep the vent along the side of your house clear of snow or debris.
See the US Environmental Protection Agency’s guidance on CO problems at home here, and follow this advice from the Erie County Health Department to keep your home and business hazard-free:
• When using portable generators, never use them indoors and make sure they are at least 20 feet away from your dwelling.
• Never use your oven or range to heat your home.
• Never use a charcoal grill, camp stove or other charcoal-burning or gasoline-powered device inside your home, basement, garage or near a window.
• Never idle a car in the garage.
• Never sleep in rooms where unvented gasoline or kerosene heaters are present.
• When using a space heater, be mindful that some types of kerosene and propane portable space heaters get hot enough to ignite nearby draperies, carpet, paper, clothing or furniture. Check them periodically to see if they feel hot. Use models that have an automatic shutoff device that turns the heater off if it tips over or becomes too hot.
• Check or change the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors every six months.
• If you do not have a battery-powered or battery-backup carbon monoxide detector, make buying one a priority.