Colorado: Carbon-monoxide alarms spike during cold snap

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Carbon-monoxide detectors have saved lives in Summit County this winter.

Emergency officials recommend appliance inspections along with CO detectors

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Summit County emergency officials say the recent spell of cold weather triggered a rash of carbon-monoxide alarms, showing the value of installing carbon-monoxide detectors.

Lake Dillon firefighters have been called to several alarms in recent weeks, reinforcing the notion that CO detectors serve a valuable function in alerting residents about the dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide in their homes, especially in winter, when stoves, furnaces and fireplaces that burn combustible materials such as natural gas, propane, wood, pellets and coal are in use.

“Because the CO detectors alerted the residents, they were able to escape without harm and called 9-1-1,” said Chief Dave Parmley of Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue. “Our crews then would go inside wearing full self-contained breathing apparatuses, and find the buildup of carbon monoxide to be at dangerous levels. Because carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, residents would not know they were in peril had it not been for the CO detectors,” Parmley said.

When a CO detector is activated, it is best to not take any chances and report the activation to 9-1-1 so it can be investigated to determine if there are elevated levels of CO in your home or business, he added.

More than 150 people die in the United States each year due to accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning from faulty or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

After notable cases of carbon-monoxide poisoning in Colorado, the owners of all rental properties in Colorado were required to install CO detectors; Lake Dillon Fire officials go further in recommending installing them in all dwellings – rental or not.

To prevent carbon-monoxide poisoning, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends:

•    Having fuel-burning heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves, coal stoves, space heaters and portable heaters) and chimneys inspected by a professional every year.

•    Opening the damper for proper ventilation before using a fireplace.

•    Never using your oven or stovetop to heat your home. The CO gas might kill people and pets.

•    Making sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid CO poisoning and keeping the venting for exhaust clear and unblocked.

•    Removing vehicles from garages after starting, and never running a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Also, make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not blocked with snow, ice or other materials.

•    Using barbecue grills only outside, away from all doors, windows, vents and other building openings.

•    Using portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from all doors, windows, vents and other building openings to prevent exhaust fumes from entering the home.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea and drowsiness. Exposure to undetected high levels of carbon monoxide can be fatal.

CO detectors, which typically sell for about $20-$40, should be placed in a central location outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home. Additionally, it’s important to remember that CO detectors are not substitutes for smoke alarms.

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