In recognition of October being Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month, we recently posted symptoms and causes of CO poisoning. Continuing with information about this “silent shadow killer,” we have more important information about carbon monoxide and how to avoid it.
Over 430 people die yearly from carbon monoxide poisoning. More than twenty-thousand are taken to hospitals and treated for CO poisoning, and 20% of those require actual hospitalization and longer term treatment. Every year, without fail, Colorado papers inevitably run stories about fatalities from CO poisoning. In 2015, campers were found dead of CO poisoning after using a small camp stove to heat their tent. A family of twelve in Pueblo escaped death but required hospitalization after CO poisoning last January.
Older people on fixed incomes will often try to save money by heating their homes with a gas stove or a generator indoors, which can have deadly consequences. Colorado stories hit close to home, but poisoning happens everywhere. A school in Georgia saw over fifty students and faculty hospitalized in 2013, after poisoning from a faulty furnace.
Story after story of fatalities and near-fatalities from carbon monoxide poisoning fill local and national media. Education about the dangers of CO poisoning and preventative measures like working CO detectors can save lives.
Get CO detectors in your home, and remember to change batteries every time you change your clocks. Have at least one on every floor of your home, including the basement. The ideal location for detectors is a couple of feet from your ceilings and within ten to fifteen feet of bedroom doors. Place no closer than than fifteen feet of any fireplace or gas-powered appliance. If you are unsure if your detectors are working, call your local fire department non-emergency number. Often, fire departments will perform safety checks or guide you in the right direction.
In addition to the actions above, follow these important safety tips:
- Have any appliances that are gas, oil or coal-burning serviced every year.
- Have your chimney swept and inspected yearly, to ensure that it is functioning safely.
- Avoid ever using camping stoves or generators inside any closed space.
- Do not heat your home with your gas oven or range.
- When getting your appliances inspected or installed, make sure that the venting is properly installed.
- Never try to patch or fix any gas, oil, coal, or wood-burning appliances yourself, because improper patching and repairs are a common cause of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Never run a car inside a garage that is attached to your home. Even if you have the garage door open, it can cause a dangerous CO buildup inside the house.
The Energy Resource Center can help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. ERC is a non-profit organization that works in tandem with local utilities to help people make their homes more energy efficient and safer. ERC performs energy audits on homes and businesses that can identify unsafe appliances and pinpoint other hazards. After performing an audit, ERC professionals can help make a house safer while also bringing energy costs down.
The services of ERC are free to income-qualified residents of thirteen Colorado counties, and available for a low cost to other residents. Even if professionals do something as simple as installing carbon monoxide detectors in a home that failed to have them, this easy step can save lives.
Carbon monoxide is a killer. Simple steps and precautions can keep you and your loved ones safe from becoming a statistic. Organizations such as ERC can help keep you safe. Take the necessary steps to keep your home free of carbon monoxide, and remember to always get out of the house quickly if you suspect that you might have carbon monoxide.