At about 7:15 pm on December 9, 2009, Portland Fire & Rescue firefighters responded to an emergency medical call at SE 12th Avenue. A call to dispatch had reported that two people were down and unresponsive.
Because of the cold weather and the nature of the call, firefighters from Station 1 suspected the patients were suffering from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning so along with their first aid gear they also brought a multi-gas detector. When entering the apartment, the gas detector almost immediately began reading CO and the readings climbed higher as the firefighters climbed the stairs to the apartment above.
Two patients were located in the apartment; one male in his 60's was deceased and one female was barely breathing. Firefighters immediately carried the female out to the street and began advanced life support care. She was loaded quickly into an ambulance and transported to a local hospital where she is in critical condition.
Family members had stopped to visit with the couple, discovered them, and called 911.
CO is called the "silent killer" because it is odorless, tasteless, and you can't see it. Early warning signs are unexplained headache and nausea. It appears at this point that the CO was caused by a natural gas heater that was not properly vented.
Efforts to stay warm in this extremely cold weather can lead to tragedy. Gas appliances should be checked yearly by a professional just like your chimney. Carbon monoxide detectors are relatively inexpensive and can be found in most hardware stores next to the smoke alarms.
December 10, 2009