This week’s frigid temperatures could be deadly, even inside your home.
The Arlington County Fire Department warns that carbon monoxide incidents typically increase during cold weather as home heating units kick into overdrive. The department issued the following press release, with carbon monoxide safety tips.
As the frequency of Carbon Monoxide (CO) incidents increases during colder winter months, the Arlington County Fire Department reminds all residents to install CO alarms and practice safe heating practices. In 2012, Arlington experienced 47 carbon monoxide incidents and 56 in 2013. These incidents occurred in all types of homes, including single family homes, townhouses, garden apartments and high-rise occupancies.
The silent killer
Carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer” because it is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness or death. 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. Eventually carbon monoxide poisoning will lead to unconsciousness home, elevated levels of CO can kill you before you are aware there is a problem. However, if CO alarms are installed properly, they will alert the occupants before symptoms even start. CO alarms are an inexpensive way to protect yourself and your family.
CO is produced when fuels, such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane, burn incompletely. While individual apartments may not have these types of appliances in their unit, CO can seep into their unit from another source in the building. Common causes of carbon monoxide in the home include gas furnaces, water heaters, gas stoves, fireplaces, wood stoves, space heaters, portable generators and automobiles idling in a closed or attached garage.
General carbon monoxide precautions:
- Install carbon monoxide alarms in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all carbon monoxide alarms throughout the home. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
- If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, immediately move to fresh air and call 9-1-1.
- If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the alarm still sounds after the batteries are replaced, call 9-1-1.
- Do not leave the car engine running in the garage, fumes can quickly build-up and seep through door cracks into the home.
- Do not use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
- Ensure all fuel-burning appliances are checked regularly by a trained and certified professional. This includes appliances such as furnaces, gas heaters, ovens, fireplaces etc.
- During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
- A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
- Only use gas or charcoal grills outside.
More information on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, visit the fire department’s website.
Firefighters initially responded to the U.S. Print and Copy store at 2044 Wilson Boulevard for a report of a person feeling light-headed and dizzy. Personnel started treating the victim and then detected high levels of carbon monoxide, prompting a larger fire department response.
A total of three patients have been evaluated by paramedics, according to ACFD spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl. It’s unclear whether any of the patients will require transport to the hospital.
Firefighters are investigating the possibility that the carbon monoxide is coming from a malfunctioning furnace in the basement of the store. Personnel also checked other businesses along the same retail strip and found elevated carbon monoxide levels in next-door Summers Restaurant, Karl said.
As of 1:45 p.m., Washington Gas crews was on the scene, the stores were being ventilated, and firefighters and police officers (who were helping with traffic control) were beginning to clear.
At least four people were sent to the hospital after elevated carbon monoxide levels were detected in the Arlington Court Suites Hotel at 1200 North Courthouse Road.
Firefighters believe the CO may have wafted into the hotel after a vehicle was left running for an extended period of time in a parking garage.
Several victims complained of headaches as a result of carbon monoxide exposure. One other person was evaluated on the scene and released.
Firefighters have brought in portable fans to ventilate the building.