This article was previously published on March 12, 2018 and updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.
Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer and for good reason. According to the CDC, this odorless, colorless gas is responsible for over 400 deaths and more than 50,000 visits to the emergency room in the United States each year.
What’s even more startling is most victims are unaware of the presence of CO in their home, car, or business until it’s too late. While you cannot see, smell, or hear a carbon monoxide gas leak, here’s how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home and what you can do if there’s ever a gas leak.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an industrial hazard produced from the incomplete burning of natural gas, kerosene, oil, coal, and propane. It is found in the fumes of cars, trucks, stoves, lanterns, furnaces, grills, fireplaces, boats, and other small engines.
Odorless, tasteless, and colorless; CO gas can build up in enclosed spaces quickly, poisoning people and animals who breathe it in. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen in as little as two hours.
Some carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include blurred vision, nausea/vomiting, vertigo, weakness, and loss of consciousness. If think you’re suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the premises and seek medical attention immediately.
What Causes Carbon Monoxide in Homes?
Did you know that many common household items are responsible for producing this poisonous gas? Appliances you rely on to cook your food. The furnace you depend on to heat your home. The generator you count on to keep your home secure in the event of a power outage. The car that safely transports you and your loved ones.
Each of these items has the potential to emit CO gas and within 15 minutes, cause serious harm or death.
CO poisoning doesn’t just happen at home, it can also occur in the workplace. OSHA reports that harmful levels of CO can be present in breweries, warehouses, boiler rooms, steel mills, and around docks. Business owners and employees are encouraged to review this OSHA Fact Sheet for more information.
How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
While you can’t avoid using items that can potentially expose you to carbon monoxide poisoning, there are plenty of steps you can take to minimize your risk of exposure to CO.
-Install CO detectors throughout your home or workplace and test them once a month to ensure they are working properly.
-Replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors every six months.
-Swap out your CO detectors for new ones every five years.
-Never allow your car engine to run in an enclosed space.
-Keep generators outside of your home and at least 20 feet away from windows and doors.
-Have your furnace inspected and serviced annually by a qualified technician.
Where to Place a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air, so you want to place them at least five feet off the ground for optimal protection. We recommend that you have at least one on every level of your home. You also want to put it by your sleeping areas, so you can hear it during the nighttime if it goes off. Putting one in your garage is a good idea too.
On the flip side, you want to keep them at least 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances, such as your stove, heater, etc. Likewise, avoid putting it near vents, fans, and windows, as well as humid areas, such as your bathroom.
As for businesses, the same principles apply. However, depending on the size and layout of your office, you want to have CO detectors in most, if not all, enclosed rooms.
What to do if My Carbon Monoxide Detector Goes Off?
Even if you think it’s a malfunction, do not ignore the alarm. You want to quickly gather all people and pets inside and vacate immediately. Once you’re a safe distance outside your home, apartment, or business, call 911 and report that your CO alarm is beeping. Even if the alarm stops beeping, do not assume it is safe to go back inside until emergency responders check and determine it is safe to return.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen to anyone, at any time. If you don’t already monitor the CO in your home or business, now is the time to be proactive and keep your family, employees, and customers safe from harm. Contact us today to add a 24/7 monitored CO detector to your security system package.