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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

CO Detector Saves Oxon Hill Family

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

Maria Garcia stands with her sons Jordan Salazar (10),
Danil Salazar (4) and Christian Salazar (1) under a hallway
smoke alarm and CO detector.  The CO detector alerted the
family to unhealthy levels of CO at 2:45 am. (MEBrady)
An Oxon Hill family is alive and well this morning because they had the appropriate and only protection they could have to detect carbon monoxide (CO) in their home and defend themselves from the “silent killer.”

At about 2:45 am, Tuesday, November 13, an activated CO detector emitted an audible warning that levels of CO had reached the early stages of being unhealthy awakened a family of four.  A 911 call was placed and firefighter/medics from the Oxon Hill area were dispatched to investigate the alarm at 532 Wilson Bridge Drive, a 3-story garden style condominium building.

Upon arrival firefighters used gas detection equipment and found CO levels at 45 parts per million (ppm).  Any readings over 5 to 10 ppm can be unhealthy with a prolonged exposure.  The higher the CO level will reduce the amount of exposure time before you start to feel the effects of CO.  Most CO detectors are designed to sound the warning when CO levels reach 35 ppm.  This early warning by the CO detector allowed the occupants to be awakened and able to escape safely.

The four occupants included a mom and her 3 young sons, were feeling some early side effects of CO exposure.  These symptoms included headaches and grogginess.  Paramedics treated the four patients on the scene and once exposed to fresh air their conditions rapidly improved.  They declined to go to the hospital.

Firefighters searched for the cause of the high CO levels and found a malfunctioning natural gas furnace in their condo unit.  They shut off the furnace and ventilated the area until CO levels returned to normal.  The furnace was tagged to remain off until a certified HVAC technician could make repairs.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas and is referred to by firefighters and paramedics as the “The Silent Killer.” The reference to the “silent killer” is due to the properties of CO (colorless, odorless and tasteless) make it nearly impossible to detect without monitoring equipment. A working CO detector 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.

CO results from incomplete oxidation of carbon in combustion and/or the inadequate ventilation of CO after normal combustion. Sources of CO include 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 or hard-wired CO detector 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 detectors 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.

The best protection a family can provide for themselves is to have a working smoke alarm and CO detector in their home.  These devices should be tested on the first day of every month and battery’s changed at least once-a-year.  These life saving alarms, when properly maintained, work every second of every day protecting you but they don’t work forever.  CO detectors should be replaced every 8 years and smoke alarms every 10 years.

Any resident that is in need of a smoke alarm and/or CO detector, and can not afford to purchase one, can contact our Safety First Alarm Program at 301-864-SAFE (7233) and request one.  A firefighter will come to your home, at a mutually agreeable time, to provide and install the alarm for you.

Prince George’s County Council Member Obie Patterson, District 8, has previously expressed his concerns about incident involving carbon monoxide.  In April of this year, five Oxon Hill residents were overcome and died from CO exposure.  Council Member Patterson has been a strong advocate for the use of CO detectors and smoke alarms in all homes and he will hitting the streets next Monday to do just that. 

On November 16, starting at 9:00 am, Council Member Patterson will join the men and women of the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department in going door-to-door throughout District 8 looking for working smoke alarms and CO detectors.  If a resident is in need, Patterson will provide a new combination smoke and CO alarm and firefighters will be on hand to install it.  Residents do not need to wait until then, call 301-864-SAFE (7233) and request your alarm today.

Maria Garcia with her sons Jordan Salazar (10), Danil Salazar (4) and Christian Salazar (1) are grateful for the presence of a CO detector that sounded and averted a tragedy. (MEBRADY)

This hallway ceiling CO detector alerted to unhealthy levels of CO.  
The reference to the “silent killer” is due to the properties of CO (colorless, odorless and tasteless) make it nearly impossible to detect without monitoring equipment. A working CO detector is the best method citizens and residents can use to detect the presence of CO