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An Oxon Hill resident was exposed to an unhealthy level of carbon monoxide (CO) in her home and knew enough to call 911 when she became ill. Just before 5:00 pm, Monday, January 27, 2014, an adult female and lone occupant of a single family home in the 5500 block of Woodland Drive felt sick and called 911. For whatever reason she told the 911 call taker she was suffering from CO.
The caller was able to provide enough information for Fire/EMS units to respond to her location but when told by the call taker to evacuate the house and wait outside, the caller said she was too sick and weak to follow the call takers instructions and remained in the house.
Firefighters and paramedics arrived within minutes and removed the occupant to the homes exterior where paramedics started to treat and assess the patient’s condition. Firefighters used meters to determine there were 125 to 250 parts per million of CO in different rooms of the house. Any exposure to CO above 30 ppm is considered unhealthy.
Firefighters searched the house for the source and believe a malfunctioning natural gas furnace or ventilation system was responsible for the high CO levels and they turned the appliance off. The house was than ventilated to remove the toxic gas from the house.
Meanwhile, paramedics determined there was enough CO in their patients system to warrant a trip to a hospital. Paramedics summoned a medevac helicopter to transport the female to a hospital in the Baltimore area with a hyperbaric chamber; the preferred treatment for patients exposed to high level of CO.
Knowing the importance of CO alarms, before firefighters left the scene they installed a CO alarm in the house. A CO alarm is the only means of determining the presence of CO in a home. CO is colorless and odorless and the human senses cannot detect its presence. When exposed to CO a person will start to feel ill with headaches, dizziness and nausea. Conditions will continue to worsen up until death occurring the longer the person is exposed to CO. Higher levels of CO will only serve to speed up the process of illness to death.
The Fire/EMS Department recommends a certified HVAC technician inspect your appliances each year to ensure they are operating and ventilating correctly. Many HVAC companies offer a discounted rate for this valuable service.
Purchase and install a carbon monoxide alarm today. A Prince George’s County law will go into effect on July 1, 2014, requiring homes with fuel service for heat/cooking, a fireplace, or an attached garage will be required to have a working CO alarm on every level of your home. Purchase and install a CO alarm today.
The adult female resident was in good condition and is expected to survive her ordeal.