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Monday, November 16, 2015

Sounding CO detector explained why she was feeling sick and perhaps saved her life

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
mebrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

A carbon monoxide (CO) alarm is credited with alerting a Capitol heights grandmother of unhealthy air in her house, however, she had already started to fill the effects of the "Silent Killer."  Firefighters and Medics were alerted to a sounding alarm with a female occupant on the floor not able to stand up just before 3:00 pm today.  When firefighters from Capitol Heights first arrived on the scene at the single-family home in the 4100 block of Ellis Street no one answered knocks on the door.  Firefighters quickly made entry into the house and located a female occupant lying on the floor.  She was conscious but not alert.  Firefighters removed her and her dog to the homes exterior where her condition immediately started to improve.  The dog was provided to other family members that arrived on the scene.  The adult female was transported by medics to a local hospital suffering from CO exposure, she was in "fair" condition.

Firefighters used gas meters and found a reading of 24 parts per million (ppm) of CO inside the homes atmosphere.  A reading of 30 ppm is considered to unhealthy, however, longer exposures at a lower ppm level will still sicken a person, especially younger children and older adults. 

A CO detector continually takes air samples.  When it detects a level for an extended period of time it will sound an audible alert.  When the alert sounded the female called other family members for help, which eventually led to a 911 call and Fire/EMS response.  If not for the detector sounding a warning, the home occupant, already sickened from CO exposure, on the ground and unable to get up, would have only gotten sicker to the point of unconsciousness and perhaps death.

Firefighters discovered the occupant was using her oven to warm the house due to her furnace not working.

Carbon monoxide is called the “Silent Killer” by firefighters and medics because you cannot smell, see or taste the toxic gas.  With 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 when CO 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 an active life of about 7 years and should be upgraded to a 10-year detector as soon as possible.

Homeowners and property managers should use this relatively warm weather for this time of year to contact a Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning (HVAC) technician to inspect heating devices and ventilation pipes.   Some HVAC Companies offer a reduced price for inspections this time of year.  Certified technicians will inspect gas-fueled furnaces, stoves, fireplaces and water heaters to ensure the combustion process is occurring within normal limits and that all flu and ventilation pipes are in tact and not clogged.

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