Carbon Monoxide - Understanding the Risk

What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless and toxic gas. It is dangerous because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu including headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea, and fatigue. The effect can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health, and the concentration and length of the exposure.

Carbon Monoxide can come from several sources, including gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces, and motor vehicles.

If Your Carbon Monoxide Detector Goes Off

If No One is Feeling Ill
1. Silence the alarm
2. Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e. furnace and fireplace)
3. Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows.
4. Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup.

If Illness is a Factor
1. Evacuate all occupants immediately
2. Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their symptoms
3. Dial 911 and when relaying information to the dispatcher, include the number of people feeling ill.
4. Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative.
5. Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO.

Protect Yourself and Your Family from CO Poisoning
  • Install at least one Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listed Carbon Monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal near sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms in your home. Alarms measure levels of CO over times and are designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms.
  • It is very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear an alarm. This does not mean CO is not present.
  • Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney symptoms at least once a year.
  • Never use your range or oven to help heat your home.
  • Never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
  • Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
  • When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house.