Maintaining safety in the home is an important task, and one that must receive constant attention to protect Family Members.

The good news is that with a little planning and preparation, you can avoid one of the deadliest and most common household emergencies – carbon monoxide poisoning.

With winter over, most think that the chance of carbon monoxide poisoning decreases once the furnaces are turned off.

In fact, furnaces are not the only source of carbon monoxide. The summer brings barbeque grilling and also brings hurricane season, power outages and the use of portable gas-powered generators.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas. It is a common by-product of incomplete combustion, produced when fossil fuels like wood, coal, charcoal, gasoline, kerosene, natural gas or oil burn.

Carbon monoxide can be produced by gas or oil appliances, like a furnace, clothes dryer, range, oven, water heater or space heater.

When appliances and vents work properly, and there is enough fresh air in the home to allow complete combustion, the trace amounts of CO produced are typically not dangerous.

The following conditions can cause CO gas levels to increase, creating a dangerous condition:

• Appliance malfunction, like a cracked heat exchanger on a furnace.

• Gas-powered generator used indoors or near home without proper ventilation.

• Vent, flue or chimney that is blocked by debris or even snow.

• Fireplace, wood-burning stove or charcoal grill that is not vented properly.

• Vehicle that is left running in an attached garage with the door open or shut.

CO Poisoning

Everyone is at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning, but some people are more vulnerable.

Unborn babies, infants, children, seniors, and people with heart or lung problems are at higher risk from CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is dangerous because it removes oxygen from a person’s blood. Victims exposed to enough carbon monoxide can suffer brain damage, or even die in as little as 15 minutes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about 500 people die from accidental CO poisoning each year and another 15,000 get sick.

For this reason, it’s important to outfit the home with CO alarms.

Install a CO Alarm

All Fort Lee’s Family housing units have carbon monoxide detectors installed. For off post residents needing to install a CO detector, the following are some tips when choosing an alarm:

• What power source is needed? Determine where to mount the product. Is there an outlet available?

• If not, the battery-operated products are easily mounted. Weigh the benefits of battery versus plug-in or hardwire, as well as digital display against no display.

• Newer alarms allow homeowners to wirelessly interconnect their alarms so when one alarm sounds, all alarms sound, giving homeowners an early warning (these must be installed by a professional electrician).

To ensure the proper functioning of alarms over time, implement the following basic maintenance procedures:

• Replace CO alarms every five years.

• Replace batteries at least once every six months.

• Test alarms at least once a month by pressing and holding the test/silence button until the alarm sounds.

• Never remove the battery or unplug the unit to silence the alarm.

If the alarm signals a malfunction, first check to see if the battery is installed properly in battery-operated and battery backup units. If this does not fix the malfunction, replace the alarm.

To learn more about protecting your family from carbon monoxide or Emergency Medical Services Week, contact the Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services Division at (804) 734-6041 or 734-7950.