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Protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning

No one is safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Everyone (including our pets) is at risk. However, unborn babies, pregnant mothers, young children, older folks, and those with heart or lung problems are particularly vulnerable.

Know and educate your family on the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning here.

It’s a colorless, odorless, tasteless poisonous gas.  Even if you’re not experiencing any telltale symptoms yet, a CO leak can slowly infiltrate your blood supply and eventually impair your body’s normal functioning.  So when you hear the alarm, your best bet is to take action regardless of how everyone in your household feels.  Get outdoors and call the fire department.

For help with your action plan, visit our When in doubt, get out section, here.  

Ideally, if you follow the preventative measures outlined below, our hope is that you never have to deal with a potentially life-threatening carbon monoxide poisoning event.  Make it a habit to review this checklist once a year so it stays top of mind and prepare a home exit strategy for your family if you do recognize a potential threat.

Home: General heating and appliance care

Annual maintenance on home heating systems, including furnaces, fireplaces, chimneys and other heat sources such as non-electric hot water heaters, to ensure that they are properly-vented and maintained. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.

☐ Ensure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Most appliances should be installed by qualified professionals.

☐ Service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owner’s manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning equipment.

☐ Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.

Never run a car or truck inside any garage or structure, even with the door open.

☐ Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space such as a garage, house, or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a distance of at least 25 feet from the house. All portable generators and similar devices should be positioned in open air at least 25 feet away from a home or enclosed space.

Home: Carbon monoxide detectors

Note:  A CO alarm is not a substitute for regular maintenance of fuel-burning appliances or equipment. For assistance with CO alarm placement, please contact your local fire department.

Install battery-powered CO alarms in your home that meets the requirements of the current UL 2034 safety standard. A CO alarm can provide some added protection, but it is no substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO.

☐ Install a CO alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home. Make sure the alarm cannot be covered up by furniture or draperies.

☐ Check them twice a year to make sure the batteries are working properly. Checking the CO alarms when clocks are adjusted for daylight saving time is a useful way to remember. Commit to accomplishing this task across all detectors in your home at one time.

Home: Oven safety and grilling safety

☐ Do not cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminum foil. Doing so blocks the combustion air flow through the appliance and can produce CO.

☐ Do not use a gas range or oven for warmth.

☐ Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment or a charcoal grill inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.

Home: Circumstantial, home construction and renovations

☐ During home renovations and repairs, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.

Boating safety

Know where boat engine and generator exhaust outlets are located. Keep away from these areas if the boat is idling.

If there is an indoor compartment or living area inside your boat be sure to install CO detectors as previously mentioned.

Need more resources?

Please visit our Carbon Monoxide directory for more resources about carbon monoxide poisoning.

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