CANTON — With New England in the middle of winter and residents digging out from a significant blizzard, Chief Charles Doody would like to remind Canton residents of important carbon monoxide (CO) safety tips.
“As we continue through the winter season and temperatures remain cold, especially during the nighttime and early morning, it is important for residents to be aware of the danger of carbon monoxide buildup that can be caused by heating sources,” Chief Doody said. “This weekend’s blizzard also serves as an important reminder to keep outside vents clear of snow to ensure that carbon monoxide is not backed up into your home. Vents should be cleared of snow after a storm, and should also be cleared — possibly multiple times — during a storm like this weekend’s where we experienced a significant amount of snowfall as well as blowing and drifting over the course of a day.”
Known also as the “invisible killer,” carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless and poisonous gas produced whenever any fuel is burned, such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal. Other sources of CO include furnaces and water heaters, chimneys, wood stoves, grills, camping stoves, gas ovens, and gas snow removal or yard equipment machines.
Know the Symptoms
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 150 people in the U.S. die every year from accidental non-fire related CO poisoning associated with consumer products such as generators or faulty, improperly-used or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters and fireplaces.
The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu, without the fever. They include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. High-level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness and ultimately death.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
All homes should have carbon monoxide alarms installed throughout. Alarms should be installed in a central location outside each bedroom or sleeping area, on every story of the home and in other locations required by standards, codes or laws.
CO alarms should be tested at least once per month to ensure they are working properly and should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If the CO alarm sounds, immediately exit the house or building and move outside to an area of fresh air, ensuring each person inside the home is accounted for. Then call for help and await emergency personnel.
It is also important to have both CO alarms and smoke detectors in your home. Combination CO/smoke alarms are available, but if you have separate alarms for both, make sure you know the different sound of each alarm in order to react properly in case of an emergency. Families should create a home escape plan and ensure each person in the household knows what the alarms sound like, what to do when an alarm sounds and where to go in an emergency.
Any resident with questions regarding CO detectors can contact Lt. Tom Norton in the Fire Prevention Office at 781-821-5095 (select option 3).
Read more about CO alarms here.
Additional Safety Procedures
The Canton Fire Department recommends these additional prevention measures offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO alarm in your home. Check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911.
- Seek prompt medical help if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.
- Never use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
- Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
- Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
- Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.
- Don’t use a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from any window, door or vent. Use an extension cord that is more than 20 feet long to keep the generator at a safe distance.