Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Carbon Monoxide Alarms Required in All Homes -- and They Could Save Your Life!

As of January 1, 2013, Washington state law requires that all single-family residences, apartments, condominiums, hotels and motels have properly operating carbon monoxide alarms installed. These devices, about the size of most smoke detectors, will emit an alarm if even a small amount of carbon monoxide is detected in the air.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, invisible gas that can make a person sick -- or kill them -- in a matter of minutes. Carbon monoxide can quickly build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed areas, and many victims may not know it until it's too late, especially if they are asleep. Entire families have perished due to a CO leak in the middle of the night.

In fact, carbon monoxide poisoning has killed more than 1,000 Washington residents between 1990 and 2005. After the windstorm the Puget Sound region experienced in December 2006, over 300 people were treated for CO poisoning, and eight people died.

CO poisoning typically occurs with the use of charcoal or gas grills indoors, since some people, in an attempt to heat their homes during a power outage, bring barbeque grills inside to provide warmth. This should never be done, as the byproduct of burning is carbon monoxide, and without proper ventilation, it is deadly. Attached garages and poorly maintained fireplaces can also be the cause of poisoning, as well as improperly vented fuel-burning appliances, such as wood or pellet stoves.

While all dwellings are required to have these devices installed, owner-occupied single-family residences that were legally occupied before July 26, 2009, are not required to have carbon monoxide alarms until they are sold.

CO alarms must be located in the immediate vicinity of each bedroom or sleeping area, and on each level of the residence. This ensures that if CO gas is detected, the alarm will wake people out of their sleep, before the poisoning takes effect.

If at any time while in your home you suddenly feel faint, light-headed, get a headache or become nauseous, it may be CO poisoning. Make sure to open a window for ventilation and get outside as quickly as possible. If there are other people in the house, make sure to wake them, if necessary, and get them out of the house immediately. Then call 9-1-1. This deadly gas will eventually cause the victim to lose consciousness, and if the poisoning isn't stopped, eventually die. Children, due to their smaller size, are extremely vulnerable to CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide alarms are available at most hardware stores, and can also be purchased online. The cost is typically around $25 - $35. Combination CO/Smoke detectors are also available. It's a small price to pay to save lives.