Each year, about 2,100 people are than 10,000 others are hospitalized as a result of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning caused by fuel-burning equipment in the home. Most of these tragedies could have been prevented by an inexpensive alarm that warns you of a high level of CO before it becomes hazardous. We recommend this small investment to make your home safer and more worry-free.
WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE?
CO is an odorless, colorless gas that’s produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels (gas, wood and others). Vents and chimneys normally carry it outdoors along with other exhaust gases, but problems such as bad drafts, leaky flues, poorly adjusted burners, backdrafting and smoldering fires either produce carbon monoxide or allow it to enter your home.
WHO NEEDS AN ALARM?
Furnaces, water heaters, stoves, fireplaces, dryers and other appliances that burn natural gas, propane, heating oil, wood or kerosene can produce carbon monoxide. The first, and best, line of defense against poisoning is to have the appliances professionally serviced annually. Insist on a carbon monoxide test when servicing is done. Then install at least one CO alarm for backup insurance.
If you don’t have any fuel-burning appliances, but your house has an attached garage, you should also install an alarm. Car start-ups and cold-running engines produce CO that often leaks into the living area. Auto exhaust in attached garages accounted for about 45 percent of the accidental CO deaths in 1992.
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WHERE DO I PUT IT?
The best place for an alarm is in the hall near the bedrooms, where family members spend the most time. For more complete protection, put one on each level of your home.
Place the alarm at about eye level so that you’ll notice it and remember to test it weekly. Don’t put it on the ceiling, next to doors or windows, behind curtains or furniture, within 15 ft. of fuel-burning appliances or in damp areas like bathrooms or laundry rooms.
WHAT DO I DO IF THE ALARM GOES OFF?
CO alarms are designed to go off before the CO level becomes critical, so don’t panic but act quickly. If the alarm goes off:
- Push the reset button.
- Call the fire department (911). Get your family out and call from a neighbor’s house if any family member shows symptoms of CO poisoning. For details about symptoms and important operating instructions, read the User Guide provided with the alarm.
- Immediately seek fresh air by opening windows or doors or going outdoors until help arrives, the house airs out, or the alarm doesn’t sound again. The alarms are designed to trigger again if the CO level remains high.
- After the emergency passes, shut off all fuel-burning appliances and call in a professional contractor or your utility company to solve the problem.