It’s Fatal Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Season | by the Washington State Department of Health | Connection to public health | Dec. 2021

Stay safe and warm during blackouts caused by winter storms.

At this time of year, when it’s cold and it’s dark earlier, storms cut power more often. When trying to stay warm and eat during power outages, remember to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal, but it’s also easily preventable. You can’t see or smell it, but carbon monoxide kills about 12 people a year in Washington. Nationally, it kills hundreds of people and sends around 50,000 people to hospitals each year.

Protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning by knowing how to use heaters and generators safely. Learn the symptoms of poisoning and what to do if someone has been exposed to it.

Fall and winter storms often cut power to homes in Washington, sometimes for days. Knowing what to do during an outage is essential to staying safe from carbon monoxide poisoning. Here are a few tips:

  • Never use a generator inside your home, garage, carport, or basement, or near a window, door, or outside vent. Generators should be at least 20 feet from any window, door or air intake. If winds blow the exhaust gases toward an entry point, a distance of 20 feet may not be sufficient. This is another reason why carbon monoxide alarms are very important (more on those below).
  • Never use a gas stove or gas oven to heat your home. Always run the exhaust fan when cooking with gas.
  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill in an enclosed space, such as inside your home or garage, or in a tent or motorhome.
  • Do not burn charcoal in your fireplace. A charcoal fire will not create a chimney draft strong enough to remove carbon monoxide from the chimney.
  • Never sleep in a room where you are using an unvented gas or kerosene heater.
  • Always move your car outside of the garage when it is in motion / warming up. Don’t let it idle in your garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never run a gasoline engine in a garage, even with the door open.
  • Consult our information sheet on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning during a power outage. It is also available in several languages.

The use of gas heaters and engines and the combustion of wood or other fuels produce carbon monoxide. Cars, trucks, natural gas appliances, lanterns, charcoal and wood fires, and gas ovens and stoves all produce this deadly gas. Smoking tobacco is also a major source of carbon monoxide in many homes.

People in confined spaces like boats or tents should be especially careful. Boat motors, camping stoves and gas lanterns are also sources of carbon monoxide.

This way, you avoid introducing sources of carbon monoxide into your home, and you avoid areas where this gas can accumulate. What else helps?

Carbon monoxide detectors are a great way to protect yourself and your family. Detectors, like smoke and fire detectors, can alert you when carbon monoxide levels become dangerously dangerous. They will not detect low levels of carbon monoxide, which is why maintenance and servicing of gas appliances is very important.

Follow the carbon monoxide detector’s instructions for routine maintenance and replace the batteries regularly. If the carbon monoxide detector plugs into your power supply, make sure it has back-up batteries when the power goes out. The detectors last about 10 years.

Washington law (RCW 19.27.530) requires the installation of carbon monoxide alarms in new residences. The law requires carbon monoxide alarms in existing apartments, condominiums, hotels, motels, and single-family homes, with a few exceptions. The law does not require that owner-occupied single-family residences, legally occupied before July 26, 2009, be equipped with carbon monoxide alarms until the owner sells the home, but it is still a problem. excellent idea ! For more information on carbon monoxide alarm requirements, contact your local building code official or see the State Building Code Council’s carbon monoxide alarm website.

Motorhomes and boats should also have carbon monoxide alarms.

Do not neglect the maintenance of gas appliances. If you don’t have symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, or if your alarms don’t go off, you could still experience low-level carbon monoxide poisoning. Follow product directions to properly maintain the device and keep your family safe.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be difficult to diagnose at first, because many initial symptoms are similar to those of the flu:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Tired
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea

If the symptoms improve when you leave the house and get worse when you return – or if everyone in the house gets sick at the same time – it could be a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning.

You can suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning even if your alarms do not go off. Carbon monoxide alarms only sound when levels get high. Low intensity exposure can be difficult to detect, but still causes these symptoms.

Carbon monoxide is more likely to harm some people than others, including infants and unborn babies. In addition, people with the following conditions should be especially careful:

  • Chronic heart disease
  • Anemia
  • Respiratory problems

Pets can also die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you think someone has carbon monoxide poisoning, here’s what to do:

  • Get out immediately to get some fresh air. Call 911.
  • If someone is unconscious and cannot get out, open windows and doors to bring in fresh air. Turn off the source of carbon monoxide. Get out in the air. Call 911.
  • After calling 911, take a count to ensure everyone’s safety. Do not enter the building until rescuers give you permission to do so. You could pass out and die if you go back and not know if it is safe.
  • If the source of the carbon monoxide is a defective device, do not use this device until a qualified professional repairs it.

You can find more tips for keeping your family safe on our Carbon Monoxide website. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers advice on how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

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