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Posted on: January 4, 2019

MHFD sheds light on defeating the 'invisible killer'

alarm installation

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas you cannot see, taste or smell. It is often called "the invisible killer." It is created when fossil fuels, such as kerosene, gasoline, coal, natural gas, propane, methane, or wood do not burn completely. CO gas can kill people and pets. CO poisoning can result from malfunctioning or improperly vented furnaces or other heating appliances, portable generators, water heaters, clothes dryers, or cars left running in garages. Headache, nausea, and drowsiness are symptoms of CO poisoning. Exposure to CO can be fatal. The proper installation and use of CO alarms is always a good safety measure. Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Install and maintain CO alarms inside your home to provide early warning of CO. When traveling or staying away from home, bring a travel CO alarm. Install and maintain CO alarms outside each separate sleeping area, on every level of the home, and in other locations as required by laws, codes, and standards. Follow the manufacturer's installation instructions for placement and mounting height. 


For the best protection, have CO alarms that are interconnected throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound. If you have combination smoke-carbon monoxide alarms, follow the directions for smoke alarm installation. CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms and vice versa. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and the sound of CO alarms. Test CO alarms at least once a month and replace them if they fail to respond when tested. The sensors of CO alarms have a limited life. Replace the CO alarm according to manufacturer's instructions or when the end-of-life signal sounds. 

Know the difference between the sound of the CO alarm and the smoke alarm, and the low battery signals. If the audible low-battery signal sounds, replace the batteries or replace the device. If the CO alarm still sounds, get to a fresh air location and call 911. 

To keep CO alarms working, follow manufacturer's instructions for cleaning. The instructions are included in the package or can be found on the Internet. Inside the home, have fuel-burning heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves, coal stoves, space heaters, and portable heaters) and chimneys inspected by a professional every year. 

Open the damper for proper ventilation before using a fireplace. Never use an over or stovetop to heat your home. Purchase heating and cooking equipment that is listed by a qualified testing laboratory. 

Vent the exhaust from fuel-burning equipment to the outside to avoid CO poisoning. Keep the venting clear and unblocked. 

Remove vehicles from the garage right away after starting. The CO gas can kill people and pets. Never run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor in a garage, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not blocked by snow, ice, or other materials. Make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow and other debris. 

Always use barbecue grills outside, away from all doors, windows, vents and other building openings. Gills can also produce CO gas. Never use grills inside the home or the garage even if the doors are open.

Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from the home. If you are using a portable generator, make sure you have battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with a battery backup in the home.

If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors. Call 911 from the fresh air location. Remain there until emergency personnel arrives to assist you. 

All of the preceding information is provided by the National Firefighters Protection Association (NFPA) and the United States Fire Administration (USFA). 

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about carbon monoxide hazards, please contact the McRae-Helena Fire Department at 229-868-2082.

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