Each year in the United States, Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning claims approximately 400 lives and sends another 20,000 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. Portland Fire & Rescue encourages citizens and families to know there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself from deadly carbon monoxide fumes.
UNDERSTAND THE RISK
CO is an odorless, colorless, and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure. CO gas can come from several sources including gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces, and motor vehicles. Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Most at risk for CO poisoning are unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens, and people with heart or lung problems.
HOUSE BILL 3450
The 2009 Oregon Legislature passed HB 3450, the Lofgren and Zander Memorial Act, requiring the installation of carbon monoxide alarms in specific residential applications with a carbon monoxide source. The purpose of the bill is to reduce deaths and poisonings from carbon monoxide. The Act requires properly functioning carbon monoxide (CO) alarms be installed in sleeping areas of dwellings with a CO source. CO sources include, but are not limited to:
- Cooking sources using coal, wood, petroleum products (including kerosene, natural gas, or propane)
- Other fuels emitting CO as a by-product of combustion
- Attached garages with doors, ductwork or ventilation shafts connected to a living space are also sources of CO
As of April 1, 2011, HB 3450 requires that:
- Landlords must provide properly functioning CO alarms for all rental dwelling units with, or within a structure containing, a CO source
- Home sellers of a one- and two family dwellings or multifamily housing units containing a carbon monoxide source must have one or more properly functioning CO alarms before conveying fee title or transferring possession of a dwelling.
- All new construction of one- and two family dwellings or multifamily housing units containing a carbon monoxide source, and requiring a building permit, must have one or more properly functioning carbon monoxide alarms before conveying fee title or transferring possession of a dwelling.
ACTIONS TO TAKE IF THE CO ALARM GOES OFF
If the CO alarm goes off, your actions need to depend on whether anyone is feeling ill or not. Lower to moderate levels of CO exposure causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea, and fatigue.
If no one is feeling ill:
- Silence the alarm.
- Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e. furnace and fireplace).
- Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows.
- Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup.
If illness is a factor:
- Evacuate all occupants immediately.
- Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their symptoms.
- Call 9-1-1 immediately. When relaying information to the dispatcher, include the number of people feeling ill.
- Do not re-enter the home.
- Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO.
WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY FROM CO POISONING
- Install at least one CO alarm with an audible warning signal in each sleeping area and outside individual bedrooms. Make sure the alarm has been evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory.
- Carbon monoxide alarms measure levels of CO over time and are designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It is very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear the alarm. This does not mean that CO is not present.
- Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting, and chimney systems at least once a year.
- Never use your range or oven to help heat your home and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
- Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
- When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house. The presence of a carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event of CO buildup.
Portland Fire & Rescue
We Respond: Always Ready, Always There
October 11, 2010