A carbon monoxide sensor probably saved the lives of a Trenton, ON couple, and reminded me that winter is the season for an updated warning on carbon monoxide poisoning. In this story about the event, the couple returned home to find their carbon monoxide (CO) sensor blaring an alarm.
“They immediately called 911 and our dispatcher told them to get out of the house and wait for the fire department to arrive,” said Fire Chief John Whelan. When firefighters equipped with a CO detector entered the house, the monitor read 85 PPM. “Anything that reads over 30, our firefighters are required to wear a self contained breathing apparatus,” said Whelan. Firefighters shut the furnace down and the home was ventilated. Whelan said the homeowner then called a licensed heating system professional. The combustion chamber in the furnace had cracked, creating carbon monoxide to back up in the home. Whelan said without the CO detector being activated, the circumstances could have been tragic.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Often called “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide is a silent, invisible byproduct of incomplete combustion, so it’s often associated with furnaces and portable heaters: here’s a link to the science of how it kills. At only medium concentration, CO can cause death in as little as 15 minutes, while much lower levels can harm pregnancies and cause long-term health issues. Death caused by carbon monoxide inhalation (CO) is on the increase. In fact, the AMA (American Medical Association) names CO as the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America.
Where does CO Come From?
Another recent article on the threat of CO has the facts:
In a typical home heating system, CO comes from the burning of natural gas. If the system is operating correctly, the dangerous CO escapes through the chimney. However, problems arise if the system hasn’t been cleaned or inspected by a licensed heating-cooling professional. Over time, blockages or breaches in the duct work may prevent the noxious CO from escaping the home or apartment. An invisible and deadly gas cloud may backup into the living spaces.
CO dangers also exist when some families, who may be struggling to pay their heating bills, will turn on the kitchen stove burners and the oven in an effort to take the chill off of their home. What these families don’t realize is how dangerous this practice can be. A gas oven or range top should never be used for heating because poisonous CO fumes could fill the home or the open flames could start a fire.
What should you do about CO?
Here are the top 10 tips for dealing with CO in your home:
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
- Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
- Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
- CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and CO alarms.
- Test CO alarms at least once a month.
- If your CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window and doors and call for help. Remain at the fresh air location until emergency personnel say it is okay.
- If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries or other trouble indicators.
- The best CO sensor is monitored by your alarm system. That way, even if you are overcome by the invisible and odorless gas, the sensor can still summon help.
Today’s alarm systems are designed to monitor for much more than intrusion. There are sensors for CO, smoke and heat, water, and even low temperature. It just makes sense to add one or more of these to any monitored alarm system – and with the right alarm company, you won’t pay any extra monthly fees for the additional monitoring services. Your insurance company will appreciate it too, and may reward you with a lower premium. A full range of sensors goes hand in hand with interactive, wireless home security – the kind you find you find at FrontPoint Security. Do you have all the sensors you need?