On the morning of February 4 at approximately 4:30 am, North Shore Fire Department (NSFD) personnel responded to a 911 call from a Shorewood resident.
The caller stated that occupants within the home awoke with severe headaches and nausea. When NSFD personnel arrived they found high levels of carbon monoxide throughout the home, peak levels were recorded at over 1500 part per million (ppm). Levels of over 1000 ppm will cause a headache and nausea within 5-10 minutes of the exposure, and death can occur in less than one hour.
NSFD personnel reported that there were no working carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in the home; in this case both occupants happen to wake without the warning of a detection device. Both occupants had high levels of CO in their blood stream and were transported to the hospital.
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Both have been released from the hospital and have made a full recovery, but you may not be so lucky.
Carbon monoxide is referred to as the silent killer because it can fill a home without warning; it is an odorless, tasteless gas that is extremely poisonous, and kills over 200 people per year.
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of incomplete combustion. Unsafe levels of carbon monoxide can be produced by malfunctioning or poorly vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges, water heaters, and room heaters. The first line of defense against carbon monoxide is to properly maintain fuel-burning appliances and equip your home with UL approved carbon monoxide detectors. Listed below are some guidelines to help protect you and your family from the harmful effects of CO.
How to avoid a potential CO problem in your home:
- Have fuel-burning appliances serviced and cleaned by a certified professional at least once a year
- Install CO alarms on every level of your home including the basement.
- Install CO alarms in close proximity to sleeping areas
- Only install UL approved CO detectors
- Install the detectors per the manufactures specifications
- Replace CO detectors per manufactures specifications (every 5-10 years depending on make and model)
- Replace the battery twice per year (change your clock, change your battery)
- Never use charcoal grills indoors, including in a garage
- Do not operate products with internal combustion engines, such as portable generators in or in close proximity to your home
- Do not allow vehicle exhaust fumes to enter your home
Also be alert to danger signs that signal a potential CO problem:
- Check vent pipes for blockage (Heavy snow falls may block vents, or animals may use pipes to build nests)
- Streaks of carbon or soot around the service door of your fuel-burning appliance
- The absence of a draft in your chimney (indicating blockage)
- Excessive rusting on flue pipes or appliance jackets
- Moisture collecting on the windows or walls of the furnace or laundry areas
- Fallen soot from the fireplace
- Water leaking from the base of the chimney
Avoid becoming a statistic, follow these simple guidelines and help protect you and your family from the dangers of CO. For more information on CO please visit www.ul.com/cofaq