Don’t let the beep steal your sleep
Utahns have been protected for years, thanks to carbon monoxide (CO) protection measures first put in place statewide in 2006. That year, Utah enacted a requirement for CO alarms in all newly constructed one- and two-family dwellings, and town homes not more than three stories. Additionally, in 2011, Utah upped the requirement to include CO alarms in all new and existing dwellings. Since then, countless lives have been saved from the dangers of this invisible, odorless and potentially fatal gas, as a majority of states have followed suit with similar legislation and code adoption.
However, alarms don’t last forever, and 14 years after Utah’s first CO alarm requirements were enacted, health and safety officials have issued a timely reminder to the public: the need to replace CO alarms as they approach expiration.
As part of its ongoing education efforts, the First Alert manufacturing company is partnering with fire departments and safety organizations throughout the country to bring awareness to the importance of replacing alarms as they expire.
“Enactment of CO legislation in 2006 marked a turning point for protection for Utah’s residents, but with busy lives and other priorities, it’s easy to take life-saving measures like installing CO alarms for granted once they’ve been implemented,” said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing for First Alert. “The anniversary of its enactment is a timely reminder of the importance of protecting what matters most, and an ideal opportunity for us to celebrate the lives that have been saved by making safety a top priority.”
Known as the “silent killer,” CO is a colorless and odorless gas that is impossible to detect without a sensing device. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50,000 emergency room visits and over 430 deaths are attributed to CO poisoning in the U.S. each year, making it the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the country. Any fuel-burning appliance, including heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances and cooking sources using coal, wood or petroleum products, are all potential sources of CO. It’s critical to have appliances inspected by certified licensed technicians, educate loved ones on the dangers of carbon monoxide, and develop a family escape plan in the event of a CO emergency.
CO poisoning can cause symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, chest pain and vomiting that mimic those of many other illnesses, making it difficult to diagnose. In severe poisoning cases, victims can experience disorientation, unconsciousness, long-term neurological disabilities, cardiorespiratory failure or death.
While alarm lifespans may vary by model and manufacturer, back in 2006, a properly maintained CO alarm had a lifespan of approximately five to seven years. Therefore, CO alarms installed when Utah enacted this legislation are again due for replacement. Check the back of the alarm, as well as the alarm’s user manual, for specific information on these different signals.
In addition to replacing CO alarms as they reach expiration, Wey recommends the following tips and tools for keeping yourself and loved ones safer from the dangers of carbon monoxide:
Important Safety Steps
· Install alarms. CO alarms are the only way to detect this poisonous gas. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends installing alarms on every level of the home and near each sleeping area for maximum protection. Also, make sure the alarms are installed at least 15 feet away from sources of CO to reduce the possibility of nuisance alarms. It is also important to test alarms monthly and change batteries every six months, unless the alarm is powered by a sealed, 10-year battery.
• Never use generators indoors. In the case of a power outage, portable electric generators must be used outside only (at least 15 feet from your home). Never use them inside the home, in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect. And, be careful to follow operating instructions closely. Also, refrain from using charcoal grills, camp stoves and other similar devices indoors.
• Be mindful of the garage. Never leave a vehicle running inside an attached garage. Even if the door is open, it is hazardous, as CO can leak into the home.
• Have fuel-burning appliances inspected regularly. Arrange for a professional inspection of all fuel-burning appliances (such as furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers and water heaters) annually.
• Plan Your Escape. To develop an effective escape plan, walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Identify two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Practice your home emergency escape plan at least twice a year and make sure to plan a meeting spot. That way, if there is an emergency, everyone knows where to meet.
• Call 911. If an alarm sounds, leave the home immediately and move to fresh air. Then call 911 and do not go back into the home until the home is inspected and cleared.