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Fire Chief's Corner: The silent killer: Carbon monoxide

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Creeping silently through your home, there’s a killer that gives no warning. This killer is carbon monoxide.

An invisible and odorless a gas, carbon monoxide (CO) is produced when burning any fuel, such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, wood or charcoal. It is a silent killer, which causes illness by decreasing the amount of oxygen present in the body.

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Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide because of their smaller bodies. Children process carbon monoxide differently than adults, may be more severely affected by it and may show symptoms sooner.

You won’t know if you have a carbon monoxide leak, without a working CO detector. If you burn any fuels for heat or cooking, be sure that you have a working carbon monoxide detector and deter this silent killer.

Follow these simple steps to protect your family:

• The most common symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and confusion. In severe cases, the person may lose consciousness or die.

• CO poisoning can often be mistaken for other illnesses, such as the flu.

• Often, more than one person in the household will suffer symptoms at the same time.

• Install a CO Detector/Alarm outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home.

• Place CO alarms at least 15 feet away from every fuel burning appliance to reduce the number of nuisance alarms.

• Test alarms every month and replace them every five years.

• Make sure alarms can be heard when you test them and practice an escape plan with your entire family.

• Have all gas, oil or coal burning appliances inspected by a technician every year to ensure they are working correctly and properly ventilated.

• Never use a stove for heating.

• Do not use a grill, generator or camping stove inside your home, garage or near a window.

• Never leave a car, SUV, or motorcycle engine running inside a garage, even if the garage doors are open.

• CO can accumulate anywhere in or around your boat also. So install a CO detector on your boat also.

• If your CO alarm goes off, get everyone out of the home as quickly as possible into fresh air. Then call for help from a neighbor’s home or a cell phone outside of your home.

• If someone is experiencing CO poisoning symptoms, call 911 for medical attention.

• If no one is experiencing symptoms, call your local fire department.

Winter time is the most dangerous time of the year for CO to be in your home. Most residents keep all their windows closed which does not allow for any fresh air to circulate in the home. That is why it is so important to have working CO alarms. We at Brainerd Fire and Rescue respond to numerous CO calls on a weekly basis. Remember it is the “silent killer.” For more information on this subject please call us at 218-828-2312. As I always say, “be safe out there.”

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