OnFocus – On Thursday morning, Town of Cameron resident Alex Montalvo noticed that the Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm was going off in the basement. After changing the batteries, he called his mother, Angela, to let her know that it had started beeping again. He then swapped the upstairs detector with the downstairs detector to see if the cause was a faulty detector, but the beeping persisted. Angela called the volunteer fire department, who arrived quickly and determined that there were CO levels in the house. A furnace inspection revealed that there were cracks in the furnace leaking dangerous amounts of CO into the home.
“I’m thankful that Alex acted and told us,” said Angela. “This could’ve had a very different outcome.”
Angela said that in the 18 years she’s lived in the home, the CO detectors had never gone off before, but she’s grateful she had them.
“Don’t ignore the alarms. Have your furnace maintenance done as recommended,” she advised. “We have an alarm both down in our room by the furnace and upstairs so I would highly recommend having more than one alarm as the ones upstairs had not gone off yet.”
Marshfield Fire & Rescue Acting Chief Pete Fletty said that Carbon Monoxide has been dubbed the “silent killer” because it is odorless, tasteless, and highly toxic.
“It can build within the home very slowly or very quickly depending on the source. If you are sleeping and have a CO leak within the home, it can kill you by displacing the oxygen in your blood. Also, breathing in sustained levels of CO at concentrations of 150-200 parts-per-million will quickly cause disorientation, unconsciousness, and possibly death,” he said. “A working CO alarm will alert occupants if there is CO in the home, similar to a smoke alarm, so people can exit the home and get the cause of the CO repaired.”
He added that Carbon Monoxide also builds and stores in the body for a period of time, and is expelled by the body through exhalation. However, there is a delay in completely eliminating it from the body because the body needs to process it. For instance, it is not uncommon for people who smoke cigarettes to have sustained levels of 8-10 parts-per-million of CO in their body at all times.
Everyone should have a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm in their home for multiple reasons. As a byproduct of any fuel-burning appliance such as a furnace, gas-fired water heater, fireplace, or idling vehicle, any of these appliances in the home can present the potential for carbon monoxide to collect inside the house.
“Common causes of CO in the home that we have experienced in the past have occurred due to improper venting of fuel-burning appliances, malfunctions in fuel-burning appliances, and warming up vehicles or snowblowers in attached garages just to name a few,” said Fletty. “The second reason everyone should have CO alarms in their home is because it is State law. The law, which was put in place in 2011, states that if you have any fuel-burning appliance, fireplace, or attached garage, you are required to have a CO alarm on each level of your home. The alarms should be installed near sleeping areas so they can be heard in the middle of the night.”
Fire departments will respond to CO calls with meters and equipment to detect whether there are CO levels or if the alarm is faulty.
“We will also try to find the source of CO in the home whether it be a furnace, water heater, dryer, blocked chimney, or other sources,” said Fletty. “This helps the homeowner figure out who they need to call to fix the problem in the home. There is no charge for the fire department to conduct a CO check if your alarm sounds.”
Fletty said that if a carbon monoxide alarm starts sounding, occupants should exit the home immediately and either call the non-emergency phone number for the fire department 715-486-2094, or 911 – WHEN IN DOUBT, CALL 911.
“If possible, try to bring your pets with you, but don’t spend too much time trying to find them. If anyone is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, or other flu-like symptoms, please report that to dispatch,” he added. “In this case, we will send an ambulance as well an engine so we can quickly help those with potential carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Most CO detector models will have a ‘test’ button on them, and now is a good time of year to check that they are working. Also, after snowfalls and/or strong winds that cause snowdrifts, make sure vents on the outside of the home are not blocked by snow or ice.
“If you have an attached garage and warm up your vehicle, snowblower, or other motorized equipment during the winter, please open the garage door and move these items out to the driveway to warm up,” said Fletty. “Often, people think opening the garage door and letting equipment warm up in the garage is good enough, when in actuality, wind can blow the carbon monoxide right back into the garage, which can in turn leak into the home.”
If your CO detector is beeping:
- Call the non-emergency phone number for the fire department 715-486-2094
- or, WHEN IN DOUBT, CALL 911!
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