Understanding the dangers from carbon monoxide
As the mercury begins to dip, some residents struggling to pay their heating bills may turn on the kitchen stove burners and the oven in an effort to take the chill off of their home. This is a very dangerous practice, said Maria Pina, fire and safety educator for the Rife Fire Protection District
A gas oven or range top should never be used for heating. It could start a fire or fill the home with poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) fumes. Any fuel-burning heating equipment, including fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, space heaters, portable heaters, generators and chimneys can produce carbon monoxide.
Hundreds of people die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, Pina said.
Fire departments responded to an estimated 61,000 incidents in 2005, without counting incidents that included a fire. Close to 90 percent of carbon monoxide incidents occur in homes.
Often called a silent killer, carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fuels, such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil or methane, burn incompletely.
It enters the body through breathing. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning or other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can strike anyone, but infants, pregnant women and people with physical conditions that limit their ability to use oxygen, such as emphysema, asthma or heart disease, can even be more severely affected by lower concentrations of the gas than healthy adults. High levels of carbon monoxide can be fatal for anyone, causing death within minutes, Pina said.
Install carbon monoxide alarms inside your home to provide early warning of accumulating CO. Have your heating equipment inspected by a professional every year before cold weather sets in.
CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms, Pina said. Know the difference between the sound of your smoke alarms and and your CO alarm. Be sure to test CO alarms at least once a month.
If your CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location and call for help. Remain at the fresh air location until emergency personnel say it is OK to return indoors. If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries or other trouble indicators in the alarm device itself.
For more information on staying safe and warm this winter, contact your local fire department: Maria Pina, Rifle Fire Protection District, 625-1243.
Orrin Moon, Fire Marshal, Burning Mountains Fire Protection District, 984-3213.
Ron Biggers, Fire Marshal, City of Glenwood Springs Fire Department, 384-6433.
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