Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas produced by the incomplete burning of any carbon-containing material, including gasoline, natural gas, propane, coal or wood. CO is dangerous because it replaces oxygen in the blood and interferes with the transport of needed oxygen to cells in the body.
Many incidents involving carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented with the right preparation. To help keep you and your family safe, follow these seven tips.
- Know the risks of carbon monoxide: Anything that burns a fuel, such as a furnace, fireplace, generator, gas appliance or car, produces a toxic by-product: CO. When these devices are property maintained and vented, gas can be effectively dispersed and channeled out of your home. If it is not, inhaling carbon monoxide can trigger serious health issues. At lower concentrations, people may experience symptoms like, headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. At higher concentrations CO can quickly cause a loss of consciousness and even death.
- Keep your vents clear: During and after a storm, make sure nothing is blocking the outside stack or vent for your dryer, stove, furnace and fireplace. Taking special care to prevent snow from building up and blocking these critical exits for dangerous gases.
- Do not run engines in a closed area: Proper ventilation is critical to avoid CO poisoning. Please do not start a car, fire up a grill or run a generator in a closed area like a garage. Even if you leave the garage door open, carbon monoxide can quickly build up to toxic levels.
- Schedule regular maintenance: At least once a year, have a qualified professional inspect your fuel-burning devices to make sure they continue to have the appropriate venting and they are continuing to operate properly.
- Keep fireplaces clean and well vented: If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, make sure it is kept clean and the flue is working properly. Even when the last embers are smoldering, keep the flue open to let the gases escape.
- Install CO alarms: When you have fuel-burning appliances, a fireplace or an attached garage, install this device in your home. You will want one on every level (including the basement), within the vicinity of the bedrooms and in any other locations required by any applicable laws and building codes. Some CO detectors can be interconnected across your house, so that when one detects an issue, they all sound the alarm. If you do hear the CO alarm, immediately move to fresh air and call 911.
- Maintain your CO alarms: Please remember that your CO alarms need regular maintenance. Many come equipped with a battery backup to ensure uninterrupted operation, even if the power goes out. You will need to remember to change your batteries at the frequency recommended by the manufacturer, like you do with your smoke detectors. It is also suggested that you keep a supply of batteries on hand in the event of a multi-day power outage. Other maintenance tips are remove visible dust with a vacuum and testing and replacing units.
It is important to have the right homeowners insurance to protect the things you value. Contact R.C. Keller & Company to make sure you have got the coverage you need. We have been protecting the residents of Chicagoland since 1910.