Health & Safety

March 20, 2012

It’s time to expose an invisible killer

Written by: Staff
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Each year in America, unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning claims more than 400 lives and sends another 20,000 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment.

The Edwards Air Force Base Fire Department and U. S. Fire Administration would like you to know that there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself from deadly carbon monoxide fumes.

Over the past 12 months, the Edwards Fire Department has seen a noticeable increase in the number of Carbon Monoxide related responses. Information regarding CO detectors in housing can be located on page 20 of the Family Housing Brochure (EAFBP 32-6001). Stop by the housing office if you need a copy.

Every year the fire department responds to numerous CO calls that are cause by a bad battery in the detector. By changing the battery every 6 months, as recommended, you can ensure your family is safe while helping cut down on the number of non-emergency responses. An easy way to remember when to change the batteries is each year at daylight saving time. Please help the Edwards AFB Fire Department protect you and your family.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.

Where does carbon monoxide come from?

CO gas can come from several sources: gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces and motor vehicles.

Who is at risk?

Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Medical experts believe that unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with heart or lung problems are at even greater risk for CO poisoning.

What actions do I take if my carbon monoxide alarm goes off?

What you need to do if your carbon monoxide alarm goes off depends on whether anyone is feeling ill or not.

If no one is feeling ill:

1. Silence the alarm.

2. Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e. furnace and fireplace).

3. Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows.

4. Contact housing maintenance to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup.

If illness is a factor:

1. Evacuate all occupants immediately.

2. Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their symptoms.

3. Call your local emergency number and when relaying information to the dispatcher, include the number of people feeling ill.

4. Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative.

How do you protect yourself and your family from CO poisoning?

“¢ Install at least one carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories, near the sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms. Carbon monoxide alarms measure levels of CO over time and are designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It is very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear the alarm. This does not mean that CO is not present.

“¢ Ensure your carbon monoxide detector has working batteries. Change them every 6 months and test the alarm at the same time by pressing and holding the test button.

“¢ Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems at least once a year.

“¢ Never use your range or oven to help heat your home and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.

“¢ Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.

“¢ When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house. The presence of a carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event of CO buildup.

Is there anything special about CO detectors here at Edwards AFB?

With this information and these tips you can ensure you and your family are safe from this invisible killer. If you have, any further questions or concerns contact the Edwards AFB Fire Prevention Office at (661) 277-3643.

Information obtained from: The U.S. Fire Administration: www.usfa.fema.gov.





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