Info and Tips
Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen in the blood to the rest of the body.
Why is carbon monoxide so dangerous?
Carbon monoxide is particularly dangerous because you can't see, smell or taste it. When CO is present, it attaches to the hemoglobin in the bloodstream, displacing the oxygen. CO then travels to cells and tissues. It quickly builds up in the blood, forming a toxic compound known as carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). This compound causes flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion and irritability. Very high levels of this compound can cause death.
Who is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning?
Everyone is at risk. Medical experts believe that the unborn, infants, children, elderly and people with heart and lung problems are more vulnerable to the effects of CO.
Where does carbon monoxide come from?
It is produced from the incomplete burning of fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal, natural gas and fuel oil. CO can be emitted from many sources around the home including unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, furnaces, woodstoves, gas stoves, fireplaces, water heaters and charcoal grills. Automobile exhaust also contains high amounts of CO that can seep into the home if a car is left running in an attached garage. Usually CO is vented safely to the outside. However, problems can arise from improper installation, maintenance or inadequate ventilation. Newly built homes are especially vulnerable, because insulation and energy-efficient windows and doors can trap CO polluted air in the home.
How can I prevent CO poisoning?
- Ensure that appliances are properly adjusted and working to manufacturers' instructions and local building codes
- Obtain annual inspections for heating systems, chimneys and flues and have them cleaned by a qualified technician
- Open flues when using your fireplace
- Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters
- Do not use ovens and gas ranges to heat your home
- Do not burn charcoal inside a home, cabin, recreational vehicle or camper
- Make sure stoves and heaters are vented to the outside and that exhaust systems do not leak
- Do not use unvented gas or kerosene space heaters in enclosed spaces
- Never leave a car or lawn mower engine running in a shed or garage (even if the garage door is open), or in any enclosed space
- Make sure your furnace has adequate intake of outside air
What about carbon monoxide detectors?
Carbon monoxide detectors can be used as a backup, but not as a replacement, for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances. CO detectors should meet UL standards, have a long-term warranty and be easily self-tested and reset to ensure proper functioning. To be most effective, carbon monoxide detectors should be installed close to sleeping areas.
What if I have carbon monoxide poisoning?
Do not ignore symptoms, especially if more than one person is experiencing them. If you think you are suffering from CO poisoning you should: Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows. Turn off combustion appliances and leave the house. Go to an emergency room. Be sure to let the medical staff know that you suspect CO poisoning.
Thunderstorm and Lightning Safety Tips
Before the Storm:
- Have appropriate ground lightning rods in place on dwelling and outbuildings.
- Install surge protectors for use on electrical appliances.
- Check the weather forecast before leaving for extended periods outdoors.
- Watch for signs of approaching storms.
- If a storm is approaching, keep a NOAA Weather radio or AM/FM radio with you.
- Know the county in which you live and the names of nearby major cities. Severe weather warnings are issued on a county or town basis.
- Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent. This is your best way to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
- Check on those who have trouble taking shelter if severe weather threatens.
When Thunderstorms Approach:
- Remember: if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately!
- Move to a sturdy building or car. Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles. Stay away from windows!
- If lighting is occurring and a sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hard top automobile and keep windows up.
- Got out of boats and away from water.
- Unplug electrical appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information and avoid using the telephone unless an emergency arises.
- Turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressors.
- Get to higher ground if flash flooding or flooding is possible. Once flooding begins, abandon cars and climb to higher ground. Do not attempt to drive to safety. Note: Most flash flood deaths occur in automobiles.
If Caught Outdoors and No Shelter is Nearby:
- Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
- If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
- If you feel your skin tingle or you hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible, and minimize your contact with the ground.
- If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately!
SEVERE THUNDERSORM WATCH:
Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are more likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to know when warnings are issued. Watches are intended to heighten public awareness and should not be confused with warnings.
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING:
Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.