Tahoe Chief’s Corner: Carbon monoxide safety key as fall approaches
Last week we discussed fire danger, and although we are seeing an occasional drop in temperature, we are still in peak fire season. With that said, the occasional drop in temperature may find us turning on heating and cooking equipment that hasn’t been used for a while, risking the chance for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Often called the silent killer, carbon monoxide is an invisible odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel can be sources of carbon monoxide.
During 2006-2010, municipal fire departments responded to an annual average of 72,000 carbon monoxide incidents, excluding incidents where nothing was found or fire was present. These incidents were more common during the winter months, and in residential properties. Carbon monoxide calls to fire departments are more common during the early evening hours.
Have fuel-burning heating equipment and chimneys inspected by a professional every year before cold weather sets in. When using a fireplace, open the flue for adequate ventilation. Never use your oven to heat your home.
Below are some general safety tips to consider:
CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call 911 to respond the fire district to ensure it working properly and there is no problem.
If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call 911 from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.
If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO — only use them outside.
Michael Schwartz joined the North Tahoe Fire Protection District as its Fire Chief in 2012, after serving 29 years with a neighboring fire agency. Along with his wife Jean, they have been a part of the Lake Tahoe community since 1978.