Know the dangers of carbon monoxide

Know the dangers of carbon monoxide
Posted on 12/12/2022

After a hot summer, you may welcome the thought of curling up with a good book next to a crackling fire while slow cooking a fall soup on your gas stove.

But before the subzero temps hit, the Lenexa Fire Department wants to make you aware of the hidden danger these and other appliances can bring to your home.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), half of all carbon monoxide incidents reported to fire departments occur between the months of November and February. This increase is due to higher use of fuel-burning equipment like furnaces, fireplaces, and generators during winter storms.

What is carbon monoxide?

It is a colorless, odorless gas produced by appliances or machines that burn fuel, like fireplaces, gas ranges, furnaces, water heaters, dryers, generators, and vehicles. Without proper ventilation, it can build up in an enclosed space such as your home and garage and cause severe illness and even death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 430 people in the U.S. die from accidental CO poisoning each year, and more than 50,000 go to the hospital for treatment. Don’t be one of those statistics: know the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning.

How do you know if you’ve been exposed?

The signs and symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu or food poisoning and may easily be overlooked. According to the CDC the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion

After prolonged exposure or exposure to high levels over a short period of time, you may experience loss of consciousness and even death.

Hand stirring pot on gas stoveHow can you protect yourself?

The most important way to prevent CO poisoning is by installing carbon monoxide alarms outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home. Test them monthly and follow all manufacturer's instructions for installation and replacement.

Other ways to prevent CO poisoning:

  • Have a professional inspect all heating equipment, including fireplaces and flues, each fall before use.
  • Double-check that your flue is open before you light your fireplace.
  • Only use generators and other gas powered equipment outdoors in well-ventilated areas at least 20 feet away from windows and doors.
  • Don’t leave a running vehicle in the garage even with the door open. If you must warm it, move it into the driveway and close the garage door. (Keep in mind: state law prohibits running vehicles being left unattended unless using a remote start system where the doors are locked and the keys are not in the vehicle.)
  • Check your dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace vents frequently to ensure they’re clear and not blocked by snow, ice or debris. Critters and birds like to make their nests in these places.
  • Ensure gas ranges and wood stoves are vented outside.
  • Never use a gas oven to heat your home.
  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill in any enclosed or covered area.

If you suspect CO poisoning or your CO alarms are going off – go outside for fresh air and call 911. The Fire Department has special monitoring equipment that can check your home for carbon monoxide.

Published December 12, 2022