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Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon Monoxide Detector

A carbon monoxide detector or CO detector is a device that detects the presence of the carbon monoxide (CO) gas in order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. 

CO detectors are designed to measure CO levels over time and sound an alarm before dangerous levels of CO accumulate in an environment, giving people adequate warning to safely ventilate the area or evacuate. While CO detectors do not serve as smoke detectors and vice versa, dual smoke/CO detectors are also sold. Smoke detectors detect the smoke generated by flaming or smoldering fires, whereas CO detectors detect and warn people about dangerous CO buildup caused, for example, by a malfunctioning fuel-burning device.

Often called the silent killer, carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Facts & figures

  • In 2005, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 61,100 non-fire CO incidents in which carbon monoxide was found, or an average of seven such calls per hour. The number of incidents increased 18 percent from 51,700 incidents reported in 2003. This increase is most likely due to the increased use of CO detectors, which alert people to the presence of CO.
Source: “Non-Fire Carbon Monoxide Incidents Reported in 2005,” by Jennifer Flynn, June 2007, National Fire Protection Association (NFPF)

Symptoms of CO poisoning

CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning, and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness, or headaches. High levels of CO can be fatal, causing death within minutes.

The concentration of CO, measured in parts per million (ppm) is a determining factor in the symptoms for an average, healthy adult.

  • 50 ppm: No adverse effects with eight hours of exposure.
  • 200 ppm: Mild headache after two to three hours of exposure.
  • 400 ppm: Headache and nausea after one to two hours of exposure.
  • 800 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 45 minutes; collapse and unconsciousness after one hour of exposure.
  • 1,000 ppm: Loss of consciousness after one hour of exposure.
  • 1,600 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 20 minutes of exposure.
  • 3,200 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 5-10 minutes; collapse and unconsciousness after 30 minutes of exposure.
  • 6,400 ppm: Headache and dizziness after one to two minutes; unconsciousness and danger of death after 10-15 minutes of exposure.
  • 12,800 ppm: Immediate physiological effects, unconsciousness and danger of death after one to three minutes of exposure.
Source: NFPA’s Fire Protection Handbook, 20th Edition.

Safety tips

  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes, or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors, and vent openings.
  • Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO — only use outside.
Source: National Fire Protection Association website

Click here to access NFPA’s Web site with information about CO detectors and why they are so important today.

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FireSafe Family VA presented by Virginia’s Department of Fire Programs

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Volunteer Orientation Information

Interested in volunteering with New Kent Fire-Rescue Fire?  Fill out a Volunteer Application and then join us at our monthly orientation.

The 2017 New Volunteer Member Orientations will be held on the following Wednesday dates: January 25th; March 29th; May 31st; July 26th; September 27th; and November 29th.  Attendance at only one of the orientations is required.  The start time and location for each date is 7:00 PM (please arrive early)  in the training room at Fire Station 1 (Providence Forge) located at 4315 North Courthouse Road, Providence Forge, VA 23140.

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Are You Ready?

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September is National Preparedness Month. Pledge to Prepare by joining the National Preparedness Coalition now! Empower yourself and help coordinate preparedness activities for your family, neighbors and co-workers, and those with whom you may study or worship. On the linked page be sure to check out all the navigation buttons along the top row… About; Hazards; Activities; and Stories… and be sure to Create an Account.

Additional resources include the ReadyVA and Ready.gov websites

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