February 20, 2018
Carbon Monoxide What is Carbon Monoxide? Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas. It is a common by-product of incomplete combustion, produced when fossil fuels (like oil, gas or coal) burn. Because you cant see, taste or smell it, carbon monoxide can kill you before you know its there. Exposure to lower levels over time can make you sick. Why is Carbon Monoxide so dangerous? Carbon Monoxide robs you of what you need most-oxygen, which is carried to your cells and tissue by the hemoglobin in your blood. If you inhale even small amounts of CO, it quickly bonds with hemoglobin and displaces oxygen. This produces a toxic compound in your blood called carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). Carboxyhemoglobin produces flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion, and irritability. Since symptoms are similar to the flu, carbon monoxide poisoning can be misdiagnosed. As levels of COHb rise, victims suffer vomiting, loss of consciousness, and eventually brain damage or death. Who is at risk from Carbon monoxide poisoning? Everyone-because everyone needs oxygen to survive. Medical experts believe some people are more vulnerable to poisoning, like unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens, and people with heart and lung problems. Where does carbon monoxide come from? CO can be produced by gas or oil appliances like a furnace, cloths dryer, range, oven, water heater, or space heater. When appliances and vents work properly, and there is enough fresh air in your home to allow complete combustion, the trace amounts of CO produced are typically not dangerous. And normally, CO is safely vented outside your home. Problems arise when something goes wrong. An appliance can malfunction; a furnace heat exchanger can crack; vents can clog, or debris may block a chimney or flue. Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, charcoal grills, or gas logs can produce unsafe levels of CO if they are unvented or not properly vented. Exhaust can seep into the home from vehicles left running in an attached garage. Al these sources can contribute to a CO problem in the home. In some cases, problems arise even if appliances are working properly. The following conditions are dangerous because they can trap exhaust in your home, and are hard to recreate during a CO investigation. *Incomplete Combustion. Fuel-burning appliances need fresh air for complete combustion. If several appliances run at the same time in a well-insulated home, they "compete" for the available fresh air. If the fresh air supply gets low, appliances recirculate each other's exhaust instead of venting CO outside. *Negative indoor air pressure. When exhaust fans run, they lower the indoor air pressure. If the indoor air pressure gets lower than the outdoor air pressure, the airflow in chimneys and vents can reverse, pulling exhaust containing CO back into the home. *Loose vent pipes. Vibrations can shake vent pipes loose from gas dryers, furnaces, or water heaters, preventing CO from being vented outside properly. desc How Can I protect against carbon monoxide poisoning? Early warning is important The consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that every home have at least one carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal installed near the sleeping area. Choose a CO alarm that is Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) Listed. Look for the UL logo on the package. The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommends UL Listed CO alarms be installed on every level of the home for additional protection Have you appliances checked regularly Have a qualified appliance technician check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems at least once a year, or a s recommended by the manufacturer. How does a carbon monoxide alarm work? It's not like a smoke alarm A smoke alarm triggers an alarm immediately when it detects smoke. In a fire, the danger is immediate. A carbon monoxide alarm triggers an alarm based on exposure to CO over time. It is designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy would experience symptoms. Remember, with carbon monoxide, it is the concentration of CO over time that poses a threat. Since carbon monoxide displaces oxygen in your blood, it can harm you if you are exposed to high levels of CO in a short period of time, or to lower levels of CO over a long period of time. What do I do if my carbon monoxide alarm goes off? Never ignore your alarm! It is very possible that you won't be experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning when the alarm sounds. That doesn't mean there is no carbon monoxide present. The alarm is supposed to go off before you feel sick, so you have time to react and take action. Don't panic. Press the test/silence button to temporarily quiet the alarm, then call 911. Immediately move everyone to a source of fresh air. Leave the CO alarm where it is (the emergency responders will want to check it when they arrive). Do not re-enter your home until the emergency responder has arrived, your home is aired out, and your CO alarm returns to normal operation. Have the problem corrected as soon as possible. Keep your home well ventilated until the problem has been fixed. Where should I install my carbon monoxide alarms? If you only have one carbon monoxide alarm, install it in the hallway near the sleeping area. Make sure you can hear it from every bedroom so it can awaken everyone if the alarm goes off while you are asleep. Additional alarms on each level of your home provide extra protection. Carbon monoxide weighs about the same as air, and distributes evenly throughout a room. A CO alarm will be effective if it's on the ceiling, near the baseboard, or anywhere in between. Pick a location where the alarm will stay clean, and out of children's reach. Do not install a CO alarm right next to a combustion appliance, like a gas or oil furnace, oven, water heater, etc. Install the CO alarm at least 15-20 feet away from these appliances whenever possible. Do not install a CO alarm where it will be exposed to a strong chemical solvents or cleaners, or in areas of high humidity. CO alarms work best when clean and dry. For plug-in CO alarms, choose outlets that cannot be turned off by a switch or dimmer, since they may not provide continuous power. Choose outlets where the alarms cannot be easily knocked off the wall This information has been provided by First Alert….because your family comes first!

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Smoke Detectors Many fire victims never encounter flames. Their deaths are the result of breathing smoke and toxic gases. Carbon Monoxide is a deadly gas given off by all fires. It is odorless, colorless and nonirritating, making it difficult to detect. Carbon monoxide poising decreases your chance for escape by impairing vision and your ability to function in a crisis. Many fire victims die in their sleep from smoke and toxic gas inhalation. Fires resulting in death most often occur between midnight and 8 a.m. when most people are asleep. Time is Valuable in a Fire A smoke detector is an early warning device that sounds an alarm when smoke enters its chamber. The alarm signals the occupant to evacuate the building immediately. A smoke detector can give you more time to escape in a fire. Time is crucial-don’t waste it. Selecting a Smoke Detector: Photoelectric or Ionization?
  • The photoelectric detector operates with a beam of light that sounds an alarm when it is broken by smoke. These detectors respond faster to slow burning smoldering fires.
  • The ionization detector "sniffs" smoke particles in the air and sounds an alarm. These detectors contain a small amount of radioactive material-americium 241. The risk associated with exposure to americium 241 has been found to be minimal. Ionization detectors are most responsive to fast burning fires.
  • A combination photoelectric-ionization detector is also available. Because of the different fire response times attributed to each detector, it is recommended that one of each be installed in every home or that a combination detector (photoelectric-ionization) be installed.
Smoke Detectors: Powered by Two Sources
  • Electric Smoke detectors may require an electrician to wire them to the existing electrical system or they may have an electrical cord that plugs into an outlet. These models do not require frequent battery checks to ensure they are operational.
  • Battery-operated models should sound an alert or beeping sound when the batteries weaken. These models require close monitoring of the batteries and frequent checks to ensure that they are working. Many fires have occurred in homes with battery-operated smoke detectors that had dead batteries or no batteries
Because of the advantages and disadvantages of both battery and electrically operated smoke detector it is advisable to have one of each installed in your home to minimize the possibility of malfunction. Any smoke detector that you purchase should be approved by a testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM). Installation Before installing your smoke detector, read the manufacturer’s instructions. Detectors should be located near each sleeping area. In homes with sleeping areas on different floors, a smoke detector should be installed on each floor adjacent to the sleeping quarters. Detectors may be installed on the ceiling or high on a wall. Ceiling mounted detectors should be at least 4 inches away from any adjoining wall. Wall mounted detectors should be mounted at least 4 inches, but no more than 12 inches, away from the ceiling. Maintaining Your Smoke Detector
  • Batteries should be checked once a week by using the test button.
  • Vacuum dust particles once a year to avoid false alarms or malfunction.
  • Check that electrical cords from smoke detectors are always plugged into outlets.
  • Change batteries twice a year or before they weaken.
  • Conduct a smoke test monthly by blowing smoke into the detector.
Other Safety Measures
  • Never remove the detectors power source.
  • If you have false alarms from cooking or fireplace smoke, relocate the detector.
  • If you have a fire, no matter how small, call 911, to have the fire department respond to ensure proper extinguishment.
  • Develop and practice exit drills in the home (operation EDITH) on a monthly basis.
  • Never re-enter a burning building. Get out and stay out.
A smoke detector is something you cannot afford to be without. What’s your excuse for not owning a smoke detector? Information has been provided by:

NYS Department of State
Office of Fire Prevention and Control
162 Washington Ave.
Albany, NY 12231
(518) 474-6746
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