West Hills Regional Fire Department
1000 Luzerne Street - Johnstown, PA 15905
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
New technology has made it possible to produce a low-cost, reliable carbon monoxide (CO) detector for the home. But why do we need a CO detector? Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. It causes about 300 accidental fatalities in homes each year; thousands more are treated in hospitals for CO poisoning. Carbon monoxide combines with hemoglobin in our blood and robs the blood of the oxygen our body needs. Early symptoms of exposure include headache, fatigue, nausea and confused thinking (so victims can not think clearly enough to get assistance). Without treatment, the victim will lose consciousness, and if no help is given will lose their life.
Carbon monoxide is produced by combustion. Common causes are:
1. Defective gas or oil furnaces and water heaters
2. Cracked chimney flues
3. Indoor use of charcoal grills
4. Use of a gas oven or range to warm a room
5. Running a car in an enclosed area
6. Closing the fireplace damper before the fire is completely out
Carbon monoxide accidents are preventable. Actions you should take to protect your family are:
Every fall you should have a qualified technician inspect your gas furnace and appliances.
Never allow your car to run in an enclosed area, especially if it is attached to your house.
Make sure your fireplace is in good repair and do not close the damper before the fire is out.
Install CO detectors to give your family a warning if CO is building up in your house.
Several types of CO detectors are on the market. One type is plugged into a wall socket and has a life of about 10 years. The other type of detector uses a chemical sensor and battery. The sensor/battery unit has a two year limited warranty and does indicate a low battery by beeping once a minute. To keep this detector operating properly, the sensor/battery must be replaced when the battery is low. CO detectors can be purchased at many local hardware and small appliance stores at a cost of $35.00 to $50.00. Make sure the detector that you purchase meets the requirements of the current Underwriters Laboratory (UL) standard 2034.
Regardless of the detector you choose, there are some things you need to know. Carbon monoxide detectors should be located on every floor and mounted according to the manufacture's instructions. If the detector goes off, everyone should get out of the house at once and call the fire department by dialing 911 from a neighbor's house. Do not ventilate your house by opening doors and windows. When the fire department personnel arrive they will obtain CO readings in different areas of your home to determine the source of the CO.
Another very important point to remember is that you still need a working smoke detectors on every level of your home. The CO detector does not sense smoke or fire. Smoke detectors are needed to give your family early warning if there is a fire in your home.
If you are concerned about whether your furnace and/or appliances are working properly, contact your contractor to have an inspection. If you have questions about your gas furnaces or appliance, contact your gas company. If your CO detector gives a warning signal, get out of the house and call 911 from a neighbor's house.
Life Safety Education Section
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department
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