For the second time since the winter storm; a family was overcome by carbon monoxide (CO) as a result of operating a gasoline generator in their home.
At around 8:00 PM, Sunday, February 7, 2010, a 911 call was received from an occupant of a home in the 7900 block of Hart Road in Oxon Hill. When firefighters and paramedics arrived they found five occupants of the home displaying symptoms of CO poisoning. They also found that a gasoline generator had been operating in the home. CO levels were detected at 250 parts per million (ppm). Any level above 35-40 ppm is considered unhealthy. Prolonged exposure at this high level of 250 ppm would result in serious illness and death.
Three young patients, all under the age of 14, were transported to a hospital specializing in the treatment of children. Two teenagers were also transported to a hospital for treatment of CO poisoning. All the patients appeared to be in good condition; however, medical attention with hyperbaric treatment will be required.
On Saturday, February 6, 2010, at about 7:45 PM, a Landover Hills family of six was overcome by high levels of CO and transported to area hospitals. This incident occurred at a single family home in the 4100 block of 70th Avenue. Firefighters and paramedics arrived to find six family members experiencing signs and symptoms consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning. Firefighters used equipment to test the atmosphere and detected a reading of 200 parts per million inside the home.
In both incidents, homes were without electricity as there was a power outage in the area due to downed power lines. Firefighters discovered both families were using a gasoline powered generator inside of their home. These generators produce a large amount of CO in a very short period of time and should not be used inside of any structure. Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones is warning citizens and residents by stressing, “Operating a gasoline generator in your home is as dangerous as you can get. By continuing this unsafe action will cause illness that could lead to death of you and your loved ones. These actions need to stop immediately.”
CO is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas and is referred to as the “The Silent Killer.” Because the properties of CO (colorless, odorless and tasteless) make it nearly impossible to detect without monitoring equipment. A working CO alarm is the best method citizens and residents can use to detect the presence of CO. CO alarms are inexpensive and can be purchased at hardware and home improvement stores. It results from incomplete oxidation of carbon in combustion and/or the inadequate ventilation of CO after normal combustion. Sources of CO are unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages.
CO Poisoning Prevention Tips
• Install at least one battery-powered CO alarm on each level of your home and near sleeping areas, and make sure it is more than 5 feet from fuel-burning appliances to prevent false alarms.
• Ensure that fuel-burning appliances are properly installed and working according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Inspect these appliances for adequate ventilation.
• Do not burn charcoal inside your house, even in the fireplace.
• Do not use gasoline powered generators inside of your house.
• Keep chimneys clear of animal nests, leaves and residue to ensure proper venting.
• Do not block or seal shut exhaust flues or ducts for appliances, such as water heaters, ranges and clothes dryers.
If It Happens to You
• Never ignore your CO alarm if it sounds.
• Operate test/reset button.
• Determine if anyone in the household is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning such as a headache, nausea, drowsiness or confusion. Call 911.
• Open doors and windows, or exit your home. Leave the CO alarm where it is.
• If you have an alarm with digital display, emergency responders can determine the highest level of CO present and decide how to treat victims.
• Do not return to your home until the emergency personnel have arrived, the home is aired out and your CO alarm returns to normal operation.