With heating season upon us the Plainfield Fire Protection District is sharing carbon monoxide information to raise awareness of this poisonous gas. Carbon monoxide is often called the “invisible killer” because it is a poisonous gas that is odorless, colorless and undetectable by human senses. Unfortunately more than 170 people die every year in the U.S. from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from non-automotive sources per the Consumer Product Safety Commission. A recent tragedy in Plainfield involved two residents who lost their lives from carbon monoxide poisoning, Morgan Becker age 29, and her mom, Denise Carlini age 65, along with their three pets; the source of their carbon monoxide poisoning is still under investigation.

Carbon monoxide is produced from incomplete burning of various fuels including natural gas, propane, kerosene, oil, coal, charcoal and wood. Inside your home, carbon monoxide can come from malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges, water heaters, room heaters and fireplaces. To help prevent carbon monoxide gas from becoming an issue within your home never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skills and tools. Have your furnace inspected annually by a qualified technician. Have your fireplace cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified chimney sweep. Never use gas appliances, such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat your home. Don’t cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminum foil; doing so blocks the combustion air flow through the appliance and that can cause carbon monoxide to be produced. Make sure vents for the furnace, fireplace, stove and clothes dryer are clear of snow and other debris.

Internal combustion engines are also a source of carbon monoxide. Vehicles, lawnmowers, power washers and portable generators are just a few examples of internal combustion engines that emit carbon monoxide exhaust. Never run a vehicle inside an attached garage, even with the garage door open. Never run a portable generator or other gasoline powered tool indoors or near an enclosed space like a garage, shed or other building; only use these devices outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from windows, doors and vents.

Other ways to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning include; never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping. Don’t use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and the manufacturer provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area. Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.

Since carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and undetectable by human senses the only way to be alerted to the presence of this deadly gas is by a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on every level of your home and in hallways outside of bedrooms; located within 15 feet of bedrooms. In addition to hallways, you should also install carbon monoxide detectors inside of bedrooms if you are concerned that the alarm located in the hallway would not wake you or a family member while sleeping. Install and locate the carbon monoxide detector according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid locating the detector where it may be covered by furniture or draperies. To help reduce false activations it is recommended that the detector not be installed in a kitchen or above fuel-burning appliances. Test your detectors monthly and replace the batteries in them every six months when you change your smoke alarm batteries. Check the manufacturer’s literature for how long the detector should be left in service; there should be a manufactured date stamped on the back of the detector. Newer carbon monoxide detectors have alarms that will sound when they are due to be replaced; this is to ensure that you replace the detector when it has reached its maximum service time. Detectors lose their sensitivity as they age and need to be replaced when indicated.

If your carbon monoxide detector sounds an alarm the most important thing is to never ignore it. The alarm is warning you of a potentially deadly hazard. Immediately go outside to fresh air and call 9-1-1. Make sure everyone in your household is accounted for and do not re-enter your home until firefighters have checked your home for the presence of carbon monoxide gas and have told you it is safe to reenter. If the source of the carbon monoxide is determined to be from a malfunctioning appliance do not use that appliance until it has been properly serviced by a qualified technician.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning vary depending upon the level of carbon monoxide and the duration of exposure to the gas. Low to moderate exposure can include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. High exposure can include mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness and ultimately death. Exposure to rapidly developing high levels of carbon monoxide can immediately cause mental confusion and loss of muscle control without first experiencing milder symptoms. The only way to ensure that you are not exposed to carbon monoxide is by having carbon monoxide detectors!

The Plainfield Fire Protection District would like to prevent any further loss of life from carbon monoxide poisoning. Residents of the Plainfield Fire Protection District that need assistance installing carbon monoxide detectors or changing the batteries within your detectors can call our 24 hour non-emergency number at 815-436-2121. For questions about carbon monoxide or any fire and life safety concerns please call 815-436-5335 ext. 7314. For more information you may also visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Carbon-Monoxide-Information-Center or the Plainfield Fire Protection District website at www.PlainfieldFPD.com.