TOWNSEND — With temperatures dropping, people are starting to use burning appliances such as fireplaces and wood stoves more often. If not properly maintained, you can be putting yourself in danger.
Carbon monoxide can collect in homes in a variety of different ways that you should be aware of. Some examples are a blocked chimney, a cracked heater system, a wooden stove, small engines, and any other gas, oil, or coal-burning appliances.
Broadwater County Rural Volunteer Fire Chief Ed Shindoll says to go through some steps if you are in a serious situation with carbon monoxide.
“The biggest thing that we want people to do if their alarms goes off is to close their doors and windows and get out, because normally they open the door and by the time we get there it’s all vented out so there's no trace of the carbon monoxide,” said Shindoll.
Carbon monoxide can be hard to detect - it has no odor or smell and its symptoms mimic colds and other illnesses. Symptoms related to inhaling carbon monoxide include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.
“If the alarm goes off; if you’ve been having headaches or you feel sick, that’s usually a sign of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, you can't see or smell it,” said Shindoll.
To avoid any serious scenario with carbon dioxide, make sure any gas, wood, coal, or burning system is serviced every year for any issues you may or may not see. You also want to never leave your car running in a closed, or partially closed, space, such as a garage. Also never run a generator or any gas-powered engine inside a home or within 20 feet of an open window. Lastly, make sure to check the carbon monoxide detector to see if the batteries are charged.
“Definitely put in a CO detector, they will save a life, and if you do get sick or have headaches, that’s a good indication of carbon monoxide poison,” said Shindoll.
More than 400 people each year across the nation die from carbon monoxide poisoning, and around 50,000 people go to a hospital for accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
The Broadwater Volunteer Fire Department says to test and, if necessary, replace the batteries in your CO detectors (and smoke alarms) every spring and fall.
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From the CDC website:
- Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home. Check or replace the detector’s battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Place your detector where it will wake you up if it alarms, such as outside your bedroom. Consider buying a detector with a digital readout. This detector can tell you the highest level of CO concentration in your home in addition to alarming. Replace your CO detector every five years.
- Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
- If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator have an expert service it. An odor from your gas refrigerator can mean it could be leaking CO.
- When you buy gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories.
- Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly. Horizontal vent pipes for appliances, such as a water heater, should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors, as shown below. This prevents CO from leaking if the joints or pipes aren’t fitted tightly.
- Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin.
- Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else. This kind of patch can make CO build up in your home, cabin, or camper.
- Never use a gas range or oven for heating. Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper.
- Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal – red, gray, black, or white – gives off CO.
- Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors. Using a gas camp stove indoors can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
- Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.
- When using a generator, use a battery-powered or battery backup CO detector in your home.