Carbon Monoxide poisoning threat increase in the Winter (641)

LACONIA — The Fire Department wants to warn everyone about the hazards of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Carbon monoxide is one of the leading causes of accidental poisoning deaths, and accounts for more than 50,000 emergency department visits each year in the US. During the cold weather months people will seal up their homes as tight as possible to keep in the heat. Moreover, we simply stay indoors for longer periods in the winter months. Many elderly people stay in their homes for extended periods. This can lead to a medical emergency, which can be fatal, caused by a build-up of carbon monoxide (CO) in the blood stream.

Heat equipment that burns fuel (gas stoves, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves, coal stoves, fireplaces, pellet stoves, gas dryers, and kerosene heaters) can generate carbon monoxide. If a person stays inside their home for prolonged periods, they will breathe in and accumulate dangerous levels of this gas. If the heat equipment is defective, the build-up of CO can be rapid and fatal.

• Many newer furnaces allow for vents to be located on the outside wall with no chimney. Check the location of low level outside vents. They can easily become covered in snow and not vent dangerous gases from your home or business. This is a serious problem with seasonal homes when the furnace may be used intermittingly and allow snow to bury the vent.
• Place a CO detector in your home if you use any type of heating equipment that burns fuel such as wood, coal, or gas. A small leak in a chimney can allow CO to seep into your home. If the home is well insulated the gas will not escape.
• Do not run your car in the garage. A car engine produces enormous quantities of CO and can quickly overcome the occupants.
• Never use an outdoor grille inside your home.
• Do not use a gas oven to heat your home.
• Do not use any gasoline-powered engines (snow blowers, generators) in your home/garage, or near doors or windows.
• Do not sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene heater.
• Follow instructions on any portable heating device
• A serious problem with CO poisoning is that a person affected will feel tired. Unknowingly the person or persons will go to sleep and possibly never awake. That is why CO is known as the Silent Killer. You cannot see or smell the gas. Only a CO detector will tell you that it is present. Laconia Fire Department has portable CO detectors in most of our fire trucks, as do most area fire departments. We use these devices to help locate the source of the CO.
• Do not ignore symptoms - severe headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea or faintness. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning get fresh air immediately and call 911 for emergency assistance. A build up of carbon monoxide will present symptoms similar to the flu. A key clue is that your skin will have a reddish hue. This is caused by the CO displacing the oxygen in your blood stream. Your blood gets darker and is reflected in skin color.

There is almost always some small levels of CO in a home. Normal use of doors will let in fresh air. However, if you do not leave the home the gas will stay inside with you. Occasionally open your doors or windows to air out the home.

Remember that at anytime you suspect a fire or you need our help for any emergency do not hesitate to call 911. Do not call the Landlord, the furnace repair person, your friends or family – call the fire department. It is extremely important that we be notified as soon as possible of any emergency so that we can effectively deal with it. Time is probably the most critical element in an emergency response.