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As the ambulance crew continued to treat the patient they summoned additional assistance to investigate their belief of CO inside the home. Firefighters from the Bowie Fire/EMS Station #839 arrived and began to investigate the atmosphere inside the 1-story single family rancher style home. Their gas meter detected a level of 400 parts per million (PPM) of CO. Any reading above 35 PPM is unhealthy.
The ambulance crew had departed the scene and was transporting the 36 year-old-female patient to a local hospital. They were notified by the firefighters on the scene that they were correct in the assessment and the patient was exposed to high levels of CO. After reaching the local hospital the patient was stabilized and transferred to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore for hyperbaric treatment. She was released later that night. Her dog, a 3-year-old toy poodle, “Trupco,” was taken by a neighbor to a local veterinarian and held overnight for treatment of CO exposure and was released the next day.
Firefighters determined that the high levels of CO were being generated by a malfunctioning furnace. The furnace was shut down and is awaiting repairs.
Firefighters from the Bowie Station returned to the home today on Maycheck Lane, Tuesday, March 9, 2010, and installed a combination CO and smoke alarm for the family. The house was already equipped with working smoke alarms and is now protected by a CO alarm. Naila told firefighters, “I have had sleepless nights since that day for fear of something being wrong. Now I feel better with the CO alarm.”
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. High levels of CO 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.
This weekend, when clocks are moved forward to Daylight Savings Time, is a good time to remember to change the batteries in your smoke and CO alarms as well. “Change your clock – Change your battery.”
FF/Medic Zach Myers, FF Technician Kevin Roberts, resident Dave Teat, resident Naila Ferkic and Trupco, FF/Medic Jonathan Coleman and Fire Captain John Beck after the installation of a combination CO and smoke alarm. FF/Medic Myers and Fire technician Roberts were on the original call.