January fire tip of the month: The silent killer | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

January fire tip of the month: The silent killer

THE FIRE CHIEF'S CORNER

Posted: January 17, 2012 - 5:21pm

Creeping silently through your home, there’s a killer that gives you no warning. This killer is carbon monoxide. An invisible and odorless gas, carbon monoxide is produced when burning any fuel, such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, wood or charcoal. It is a silent killer, which causes illness by decreasing the amount of oxygen present in the body.

Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide because of their smaller bodies. Children process carbon monoxide differently than adults and may be more severely affected by it and show symptoms sooner.

You won’t know that you have a carbon monoxide leak, without a working detector. If you burn any fuels for heat or cooking, be sure that you have a working carbon monoxide detector and deter this silent killer.

Follow these simple steps to help protect your family:

• The most common symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and confusion. In severe cases, the person may lose consciousness or die.

• CO poisoning can often be mistaken for other illnesses, such as the flu.

• Often, more than one person in the household will suffer symptoms at the same time.

• Install a CO alarm outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home.

• Place CO alarms at least 15 feet away from every fuel burning appliance to reduce the number of nuisance alarms.

• Test alarms every month and replace them every five years.

• Make sure alarms can be heard when you test them and practice an escape plan with your entire family.

• Have all gas, oil or coal burning appliances inspected by a technician every year to ensure they are working correctly and are properly ventilated.

• Never use a stove for heating.

• Do not use a grill, generator or camping stove inside your home, garage or near a window.

• Never leave a car, Sports Utility Vehicle, motorcycle or snowmobile engine running inside a garage, even if the garage door is open.

• CO can accumulate anywhere in or around your boat, so install a CO alarm on your motorboat.

• If your CO alarm goes off, get everyone out of the house as quickly as possible into fresh air. Then call for help from a neighbor’s home or a cell phone outside of your home.

• If someone is experiencing CO poisoning symptoms, call 911 for medical attention.

• If no one is experiencing symptoms, call your local fire department.

In comparison Brainerd Fire and Rescue responded to approximately two dozen CO calls in the last year. Remember CO is odorless/colorless so you cannot smell it. It takes a trained professional with the proper detection devices to detect CO. Don’t be a statistic, call the fire station if you have any doubt.

For more information on CO call the fire station at 828-2312. And again be safe out there!

KEVIN STUNEK is the Brainerd Fire Chief.