CO is a deadly, colorless, odorless, toxic gas, which results from the unfinished burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers also produce CO.

Since the gas is impossible to detect merely by our senses, carbon monoxide is especially dangerous; however, CO poisoning can be avoided with the use of a properly functioning carbon monoxide detector that will help ensure the occupants of a structure are able to escape before exposure to the lethal fumes cause death.

Each year, more than 150 people in America die due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the US Fire Administration. The following precautions from the USFA can help prevent exposure to CO fumes:

  • Have fuel-burning heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves, coal stoves, space heaters and portable heaters) and chimneys inspected by a professional every year.
  • Open the damper for proper ventilation before using a fireplace.
  • Never use your oven or stovetop to heat your home. When purchasing new heating and cooking equipment, select products tested and labeled by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning vented equipment is vented to the outside to avoid CO poisoning. Keep the venting for exhaust clear and unblocked.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Never run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not blocked with snow, ice or other materials. Make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow and other debris.
  • Only use barbecue grills outside, away from all doors, windows, vents and other building openings. Some grills can produce CO gas. Never use grills inside the home or the garage, even if the doors are open.
  • Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from all doors, windows, vents and other building openings to prevent exhaust fumes from entering the home.

CO is dangerous to both people and pets. The early symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness. A high level of CO poisoning will progress to mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscle coordination, loss of consciousness, and ultimately death.

To keep yourself and others safe from CO poisoning it is imperative to install, test, and maintain carbon monoxide detectors according to manufacturer’s instructions. If the alarm sounds, make sure everyone evacuates the building and call emergency services such as the fire department or 911.

For more information on carbon monoxide, please go to http://www.com.ohio.gov/fire/, then click on prevention and follow the link to “Carbon Monoxide — The Silent Killer in Homes.”

Those with questions or concerns can contact the Athens Fire Department at 740-592-3301.

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