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What You Should Know About Carbon Monoxide

What is carbon monoxide and why is it so dangerous?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless and poisonous gas that results when natural gas and other fuels burn without sufficient oxygen. Carbon monoxide is an asphyxiate and prevents needed oxygen from traveling throughout the body. Carbon monoxide combines more readily with hemoglobin (blood) than oxygen, thus disrupting oxygen transport. Carbon monoxide levels in the blood vary with carbon monoxide exposure levels, length of exposure and physiological factors. Elevated levels of carbon monoxide can cause illness and even death. The elderly and persons with cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases are particularly sensitive to elevated levels of carbon monoxide.

Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea, headaches, and fatigue: these symptoms are often mistaken for the flu. Persons exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide need fresh air immediately and should be removed from the hazardous environment. If you suspect elevated levels of carbon monoxide are in your home and you feel ill, you should go to a neighbor’s house and call 911. The fire department will test for levels of elevated carbon monoxide in your home to determine if it is safe to re-enter.

How can I determine if there are elevated levels of carbon monoxide in my home?
The most effective way of determining whether there are elevated levels of carbon monoxide in your home is to purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors. There are two basic types of carbon monoxide detectors, plug-in or AC units, and battery operated units. Both alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide.

Plug-in units operate by heating a metal-oxide sensor, which reacts with carbon monoxide. When this type of unit detects carbon monoxide, the alarm sounds, but resets a few minutes after gas dissipates. Plug-in units can plug directly in a wall socket or utilize a power cord. If the unit has a power cord, it should be placed high on a wall, as close to the ceiling as possible.

The battery-operated unit has a disk that darkens from prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide, air pollution, high humidity and household vapors. The infrared sensor in the unit senses the change in the color and sounds the alarm. It is important to remember that the battery and sensor units need to be replaced every two years. Carbon monoxide detectors can be purchased at general retail and hardware stores. If you have additional concerns about a particular brand, you can call the manufacturer.

Where should I install a carbon monoxide detector?
Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in a hallway between bedrooms and the rest of the house. Additional detectors can be placed near every sleeping and living area. DO NOT place the carbon monoxide detectors in a room with a furnace! DO NOT place the detector in the kitchen or garage!

How can I prevent carbon monoxide buildup in my home in the first place?
Effective ways to prevent a build-up of carbon monoxide in your home are to have a qualified contractor perform an inspection of your chimney, regularly check your appliances and perform routine maintenance, keep your home well-ventilated, never idle your car in the garage with the door down and finally install a carbon monoxide detector in your home.

Activities that contribute to elevated levels of carbon monoxide in the home should always by avoided. These include: using a gas or charcoal grill in the garage, warming up the car while still in the garage (even with the overhead door open), not frequently checking the clothes dryer vent for buildup of lint, not venting space heaters properly and not checking it see if the chimney flue is open before starting a fire.

Mesothelioma - an Asbestos-Related Cancer

Firefighters are at risk of asbestos exposure because of its frequent use in older structures and its ability to linger in the air even after a fire has been extinguished, but anyone can have been exposed to asbestos. More information on Mesothelioma.

Home Inspections

Every 66 seconds a fire department responds to a residential fire somewhere in the United States. Most of these fires occur at night while the entire family is sleeping. Each year residential fires account for one death every 118 minutes and one serious injury every 18 minutes. In Illinois, children under the age of five account for 20% of all residential fire deaths. Will your family be the next statistic?

According to the Fire Chief, “Hazards which are the cause of many residential fires can be eliminated through a simple process known as a Home Fire Safety Inspection.”

The Carpentersville Fire Department offers free Home Fire Safety Inspections for owners or occupants of any residential home or apartment in Carpentersville.

During a Home Fire Safety Inspection, a member of the Fire Department will walk through your home specifically looking for fire hazards. Once a fire hazard has been discovered, the inspector will explain the potential for fire and suggest ways to correct. The inspector will also suggest locations for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, discuss the types and uses of fire extinguishers, and help your family develop a workable home fire escape plan.

According to the Fire Chief, “This program is without citations, fines or enforcement of any kind”. This is purely a public education program provided for residents of Carpentersville.

As an incentive, the Carpentersville Fire Department offers free help in installing detectors for those residents unable to do so themselves. For more information, contact the Fire Department at 847-426-2131.

When to Call 911

  • Only call 911 when you have a police/fire/medical emergency.
  • Provide the dispatcher the address you need help at.
  • Advise the dispatcher what you need, such as the fire department or police.
  • Give your name and the phone number you are calling from.

What To Do?

Before The Ambulance Arrives

After you call 911, there are several things you can do until Emergency Responders arrive. These simple procedures will greatly aid the Emergency Responders and the patient they will treat.

  • If you determine that the patient is pulseless and non-breathing, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), but only if you have been trained in this life saving technique.
  • Stay calm: do not get excited. This will reassure the patient that help is on the way.
  • Make the patient as comfortable as possible.
  • Control whatever bleeding the you can (if the patient is bleeding)
  • Gather all the medication that the patient may be taking. This will help Emergency Responders better determine the medical history of the patient.
  • Move all furniture or obstacles out of the way so Emergency Responders have easy access to the patient. Make sure all pets are secured.
  • Remember the time, this is very important. When was the last time you talked to the patient? How long has the medical condition existed? How long has the person been unconscious?


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