CITY OF BALTIMORE Baltimore City Fire Department
Sheila Dixon, Mayor James S. Clack - Chief of Fire Department
401 E. Fayette Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
BALTIMORE CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT REMINDS EVERYONE TO BE “AWARE OF THE SILENT KILLER”
BALTIMORE, Md. (November 20, 2008): As cooler weather and the winter months are upon us, the Baltimore City Fire Department would like to remind everyone to have your home heating appliances serviced by a licensed professional to protect your family, your home and avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless and toxic gas that is often referred to as the “silent killer.” When inhaled, it inhibits the blood’s capacity to transport oxygen throughout the body. It can poison the body quickly in high concentrations, or slowly over long periods of time.
Carbon Monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned is burned. If the appliance that burns fuel is maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result. Typically, carbon monoxide is produced from the following appliances; your furnaces, hot water heater, gas range or dryer and other fuel-burning appliances that may be used in your home.
What are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Exposure to CO can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, burning eyes, confusion, drowsiness and even loss of consciousness. In severe cases, CO poisoning can cause brain damage and death. The elderly, children and people with heart or respiratory conditions may be particularly sensitive to CO.
How is carbon monoxide generated in the home?
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal, gasoline or wood burning in a fireplace. This incomplete combustion can occur in any device that depends on burning for energy or heat, such as furnaces, room heaters, fireplaces, hot water heaters, stoves or grills and any gas powered vehicle or engine. Automobiles left running in attached garages, gas barbecues grills operated inside the house, or kerosene heaters that are not properly vented, or chimneys or vents that are dirty or plugged may create unsafe levels of CO.
When properly installed, maintained and vented, any CO produced by these devices will not stay inside the home.
What are some danger signs?
ü You or other members of your family have symptoms of CO exposure (see above).
ü You notice a sharp, penetrating odor or smell of gas when your furnace or other fuel-burning equipment turns on.
ü The air is stale or stuffy.
ü The pilot light of your furnace or other fuel-burning equipment goes out.
ü Chalky white powder forms on the chimney/exhaust vent pipe or soot build-up occurs around the exhaust vent.
How can unsafe levels of carbon monoxide be detected?
Carbon monoxide detectors monitor airborne concentration levels (parts per million) of carbon monoxide and sound an audible alarm when harmful CO levels are present.
If you suspect carbon monoxide in your home…
If you or anyone else in your home is experiencing the symptoms of CO poisoning, ensure that everyone leaves the home immediately, leaving the door open. Call your local fire department or 911 from a neighbor’s telephone.
If your CO detector sounds do NOT assume it to be a false alarm. Open all doors and windows to ventilate the home. If you cannot find the problem and the alarm continues, contact the fire department. If there is a strong smell of natural gas in your home, evacuate immediately, leaving the door open and contact your local gas utility.
If no symptoms are experienced, reset the detector and check to see if the alarm activates. If the detector sounds a second time, call the local fire department for their assistance.
If the detector does not sound a second time, check for common conditions that may have caused a CO build-up (see the accompanying illustration) or contact a qualified heating contractor to check your fuel-burning equipment.
Where should a carbon monoxide detector be located in the home?
Proper placement of a CO detector is important. In general, the human body is most vulnerable to the effects of CO during sleeping hours, so a detector should be located in or as near as possible to the sleeping area of the home.
If only one detector is being installed, it should be located near the sleeping area, where it can wake you if you are asleep.
Where sleeping areas are located in separate parts of the home, a detector should be provided for each area.
Additional CO detectors should be placed on each level of a residence and in other rooms where combustion devices are located (such as in a room that contains a solid fuel-fired appliance, gas clothes dryer or natural gas furnace), or adjacent to potential sources of CO (such as in a teenager’s room or granny suite located adjacent to an attached garage.)
Unlike smoke, which rises to the ceiling, CO mixes with air. Recognizing this, a CO detector should be located at knee height (which is about the same as prone sleeping height). Due to the possibility of tampering or damage by pets, children, vacuum cleaners and the like, it may be located up to chest height. To work properly, a detector should not be blocked by furniture, draperies or other obstructions to normal air flow.
If a combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector is used, it should be located on the ceiling to ensure that it will detect smoke effectively.
To keep safe, please remember:
You have a responsibility to know about the dangers of carbon monoxide. Your knowledge and actions may save lives.