GREAT FALLS — Although indoor heating systems protect you from the bitter Montana cold, they can expose you to something more frightening than sub-zero temperatures: carbon monoxide. It is often referred to as “The Silent Killer” by fire officials due to it being odorless, tasteless, and invisible. Great Falls Emergency Service urges everyone to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide (CO) enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning, and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, and/or headaches. High levels of CO can be fatal, causing death within minutes.
GFES also recommends you have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home because you can’t see or smell the gas. Anything that produces a flame creates small amounts of the gas.
"It can certainly kill a person and it can very easily create longterm complications in the person's health,” said Justin Grohs, GFES General Manager. "It can create long-term neurological problems as well as long-term respiratory problems.”
Here is information from the National Fire Protection Association about the hazards associated with carbon monoxide:
- 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.
- Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds.
- 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 the fire department.
- 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 for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel.
- 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 outside.