Prince George’s County Firefighters and Paramedics made a disturbing discovery in a Hyattsville home after responding to a possible carbon monoxide (CO) incident this morning. At about 9:00 am, Sunday, May 30, 2010, Fire/EMS units responded to a 2-story, with basement, single family home in the 5600 block of 38th Avenue. Firefighter/Medics arrived and conducted a search of the home for victims and for the source of the CO. Three male victims were quickly located on the second floor and after a medical assessment were determined to be deceased. The males ranged in age from 18 to 22.
Firefighters also located a running gasoline powered generator in the basement of the house. The house did not have any electric service. The generator was turned off by firefighters and an atmospheric test determined there were upwards of 300 parts per million (PPM) of CO inside the home. Anything over 35 PPM is considered unhealthy.
A teen-aged family member of two of the victims had entered the home before 9:00 am and discovered the unconscious males and notified 911. She was subsequently transported by paramedics to a hospital for hyperbaric chamber treatment of CO exposure.
Firefighters ventilated the house and ensured the atmosphere was safe for the Hyattsville City Police Department to begin their initial investigation of the interior. There were 22 firefighters and paramedics on the scene that operated for about 1 ½ hours.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death and the Hyattsville City Police Department is conducting an investigation into this incident and will release any additional information.
Gasoline powered generators produce a large amount of CO in a very short period of time and should not be used inside of any structure. 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 including automobile exhaust.
CO Poisoning Prevention Tips
• Install at least one 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.