MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
At about 4:30 pm, Sunday, February 22, 2015. A family member arrived at her mother’s house in the 4900 block of Powder Mill Road in Beltsville. She found her mother lying unconscious on the floor and immediately called 911. While on the phone with the 911 call taker she found the family dog unconscious as well.
Firefighters and Medics arrived and believed CO maybe involved due to the unconscious person and dog. The assignment was upgraded to a carbon monoxide (CO) incident bringing additional medics, haz-mat team and incident commanders to the scene. Medics evaluated and treated the unconscious adult female while firefighters searched for the possible source of CO.
Using gas tracking meters firefighters found 1000 parts per million (PPM) of CO in the homes interior atmosphere. Anywhere from 0 to 35 ppm is considered normal, any reading over 35 is considered unhealthy. 1000 ppm of CO is extremely high and lethal with a very short exposure time. At that level of CO, I believe that if the daughter had not arrived and found her mother, the female occupant would have succumbed to CO within a short period of time.
Firefighters located a malfunctioning natural gas water heater in the basement, which appeared to be the source of the high CO. The appliance was turned off as well as the natural gas to the entire house. The Washington Gas officials were made aware of the incident.
The adult female was transported by medics to a hospital with a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, the preferred medical treatment for CO exposure. Her condition is serious. Tragically, the dog was declared deceased.
CO is called the “Silent Killer” by firefighters and medics because you cannot smell, see or taste the toxic gas. With unhealthy levels of CO going undetected, home occupants will start to feel sick with flu like symptoms. The higher the level of CO the shorter amount of time it takes to start making people sick. CO is a by-product of fossil fuel combustion and can be problematic when over combustion occurs at the appliance or the product is not properly vented outside.
The only way homeowners can detect the presence of unhealthy CO in their home is to purchase and install a carbon monoxide detector. County law currently requires a working CO detector on every level of your home, primarily, just outside of sleeping areas. This law also applies to all apartments, condos, hotels, motels and dormitories in Prince George's County.
The Fire/EMS Department highly recommends the purchase of 10-year, tamper proof, with hush feature detector that can be purchased at home improvement and hardware stores. Test your smoke alarm and CO detector on the first day of every month to ensure they are working. CO detectors have a active life of about 7 years and should be upgraded to a 10-year detector as soon as possible.