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Municipality of the District of Chester
Fire & Emergency Response

Carbon monoxide (CO) is the leading cause of fatal poisonings in North America. Exposure to high concentrations can cause death in just a few minutes. There are some simple steps you can take to keep your family safe.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas.

What are the dangers of carbon monoxide gas?

Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.

Where does carbon monoxide come from?

CO gas can come from several sources: gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces and motor vehicles. CO can be caused by blocked or dirty vents, flues, chimneys and furnaces, as well as improper ventilation of burning fireplaces or woodstoves.

Who is at risk?

Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Medical experts believe that unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with heart or lung problems are at even greater risk for CO poisoning.

How can I protect myself and family from carbon monoxide poisoning ?

  • When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house.
  • Have a professional perform an annual inspection and cleaning of furnaces, chimneys, and fireplaces and any other fuel burning equipment such as gas dryers.
  • Always ensure that any wood or coal-burning stove is properly installed and vented.
  • Never use your range or oven to help heat your home and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
  • Never operate any gasoline-powered engine, kerosene stove or charcoal grill in a closed space.
  • Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
  • Check all forced air fans for proper ventilation.

What should I do if I suspect carbon monoxide in my house?

If you suspect carbon monoxide in your home, get out immediately and call 911.

Are there alarm systems that I can install ?

Carbon monoxide alarms measure levels of CO over time and are designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It is very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear the alarm. This does not mean that CO is not present. It is recommended that you install at least one UL (Underwriters Laboratories) listed carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal near the sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms.

What actions should I take if my carbon monoxide alarm goes off?

If no one is feeling ill:

  • Silence the alarm.
  • Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e. furnace and fireplace).
  • Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows.
  • Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup.
  • Evacuate all occupants immediately.

If illness is a factor:

  • Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their symptoms.
  • Evacuate all occupants immediately.
  • Call 911 and relay information to the dispatcher, include the number of people feeling ill.
  • Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative.
  • Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO.