Carbon Monoxide Alarms
By Ralph Winn
Carbon monoxide is called “the silent killer” for a reason. Virtually undetectable, the colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas sends thousands to the hospital each year. Sadly, hundreds of people die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning, and many of these deaths could have been prevented.
Carbon monoxide poisoning most often occurs in the home as a result of improper ventilation or a leak in a major heating appliance. A blocked chimney or malfunctioning heating equipment can release carbon monoxide gas into your home instead of venting it outside. And because it’s so difficult to detect, it can make you and your family sick before you even realize that it’s there.
At low levels, carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, and fatigue. At higher levels, it can cause unconsciousness, and, eventually, death.
Breaking the silence
A carbon monoxide alarm can give you extra peace of mind. These alarms are designed to detect the poisonous gas in the air and alert you with enough time to get out and into the fresh air immediately. Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in a common area near all bedrooms (if bedrooms are far from each other, you should install more than one) to make sure they wake up everyone sleeping in the house.
There are many types of carbon monoxide alarms available today. It’s a good idea to compare prices and features, but you may want to choose an alarm with battery backup. A backup offers additional protection in case you lose power – just remember to check the batteries and test the alarm regularly.
Prevention is key
In addition to installing a carbon monoxide alarm in your home, you should also take preventive, common sense steps to reduce your risk of carbon monoxide exposure. Use this checklist to help you make your home safer:
• Have heating equipment inspected by a professional once a year, including your fireplace, water heater, gas
dryer, and other heating or cooking appliances.
• Don’t use gas appliances like your stove or oven to heat your home.
• Never, ever burn charcoal in your home or any other enclosed space.
• Don’t idle your car in the garage, even if the garage door is open. Vehicles also produce carbon monoxide.
• Never run a gas-powered generator in your home.
Remember that carbon monoxide can overpower you in seconds. Keeping your heating and cooking appliances in good repair and installing a carbon monoxide alarm can lower your risk of exposure.