Safety For You: Carbon Monoxide is the Silent Killer


Like fire, carbon monoxide (CO) is just as deadly.  It’s called the silent killer because it’s colorless, odorless and invisible.  More than 400 people in the United States die every year from accidental nonfire-related CO poisoning associated with consumer products, including generators.  When you breathe in CO, it makes you feel nauseas, dizzy, headachy, and tired like you have the flu.  It also makes it difficult to think clearly.  CO poisons the body by removing oxygen in the blood stream, slowing suffocating you and eventually causing unconsciousness and even death.

On Tuesday January 23, 2019 a Walker Michigan family called the Walker Fire Department to report their Kidde carbon monoxide alarm, which was installed in early April of 2018 by the fire department through the WOTV 4 Women Operation Save A Life program, was alarming and they were unable to reset it.  The caller indicated no one in her family was experiencing any symptoms.  However, she did indicate that her son had not been feeling well but they figured he was just catching a cold from school.

Upon arrival by a Walker fire engine crew, it was determined the heat exchanger in the family’s furnace was malfunctioning and was the cause of the alarm activation as well as the son’s symptoms.

Another family is saved thanks to the strong work by the members of the Walker Fire Department!

Walker OSAL CO Alarm Family

Where does CO come from?

Heating equipment is the leading cause of CO incidents. It can also come from hot water heaters, gas stoves, gas dryers, barbecue grills, fireplaces, kerosene heaters, and from cars, lawn mowers, snow blowers or generators running inside the garage – even with the door open. A large number of CO incidents take place between the months of November and February and between 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. This is the time when most heating equipment is being used at home.

Facts & figures

  • The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim’s health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body’s ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.
  • A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
  • More than 20,000 people visit emergency rooms across the U.S. and more than 4,000 are hospitalized each year.

What can you do?

  • Install a CO alarm on every level of your home.  Replace alarms that are over five years old.
  • Never use a generator inside the home or attached garage.
  • Have a licensed contractor inspect and service your gas-fired heating and cooking appliances at least annually.



What to do if you suspect CO exposure

• Get out of the house or car and get fresh air.
• Call the fire department or 911 from a neighbor’s house.
• If you have symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

For more information on carbon monoxide safety, please visit the National Fire Protection Association or the United States Fire Administration websites.


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