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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Carbon Monoxide

The Schuyler County Emergency Management Office would like to take the opportunity to clarify information regarding the recent law, known as “Amanda’s Law”, that went into effect on February 22, 2010. “Amanda’s Law” was named in honor of Amanda Hansen, a teenage girl who lost her life to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning while sleeping over at a friend’s house in January of 2009. This new law requires that CO alarms be installed in all new and existing one and two family dwellings, multi-family dwellings and rental dwellings that have fuel-burning appliances, systems or an attached garage.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can be fatal when inhaled. Because it is undetectable to human senses, it is sometimes called the “silent killer”. Carbon Monoxide is a by-product of combustion, so all fuel burning appliances produce carbon monoxide. When appliances become defective, are installed improperly, or misused, they can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the living areas of our homes. Furnaces, hot water heaters, gas stoves/ovens, gas clothes dryers, portable fuel-burning space heaters, fire places, wood stoves, and generators are all appliances that may malfunction and produce dangerous levels of Carbon Monoxide. In addition, a blocked chimney or flue, or operating a generator or vehicle inside closed spaces, can produce these elevated levels of Carbon Monoxide.

It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of a carbon monoxide exposure. In a common mild exposure, symptoms may include slight headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or flu like symptoms. In a medium exposure you may experience a throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, or a fast heart rate. In the most extreme exposures, carbon monoxide poisoning may lead to convulsions, unconsciousness, brain damage, heart and lung failure, and eventually, death.
If you or anyone in your home experience even mild carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, you should consult a physician immediately. If anyone is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to move to fresh air.

The single most affective way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of exposure to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, is the proper installation of a CO detector in your home. Carbon Monoxide has very similar physical characteristics to the air that we breathe. Because of these similar characteristics, carbon monoxide will NOT collect in higher or lower areas of your home, but actually mix with the air in your home. It is recommended then, that if only one carbon monoxide detector is installed in the home, that it be placed in sleeping areas or in a hallway outside of the sleeping areas. Additional detectors may be placed on each level of the home and in utility areas where fuel-burning appliances are located. If placing them in a utility area, it is recommended that they be placed a minimum of 15 feet away from the fuel burning appliance. Attention should be made that they are NOT located in dead air spaces or next to doors or windows, as these spaces will not allow the detector to function properly. Placement can be made at a height that is easily reachable so that the detector batteries may be tested. Manufactures suggestions for placement, should be provided with literature included in packaging of the detector. Battery testing should be done monthly by depressing the test button on the detector.

If your carbon monoxide detector does sound an alarm and anyone is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure, you should move everyone to fresh air and contact 911 from a neighbor’s house. If no one is experiencing symptoms, you should contact the local fire department or a qualified technician from a neighbor’s house, to have the problem checked. Under no circumstances should an alarm be ignored.

If you have any questions in regards to Amanda’s Law or carbon monoxide detectors, you may contact us at the Schuyler County Emergency Management Office at 607-535-8200 or by checking some of the following sights on-line:

or check out our face book page “Schuyler-County-Emergency-Management”.

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