JACKSON — In an effort to increase awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) – an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas – Gov. Rick Snyder, the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Consumers Energy and DTE Energy have collaborated to designated Oct. 30-Nov. 5 as Michigan Carbon Monoxide Safety and Awareness Week.
“Carbon monoxide poisoning sickens thousands of citizens and causes nearly 400 accidental deaths each year in the United States,” Snyder stated in his proclamation. “Michigan residents should be aware that unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning can occur almost anywhere – in homes, businesses, RVs, cabins, boats and ice shanties.”
CO detectors are sometimes available via local fire departments. CO poisoning occurs when appliances and consumer products are improperly operated or not vented properly. This includes furnaces, boilers, water heaters, ovens, fireplaces, portable heaters, generators and vehicles.
“We care about the communities we serve, and want people to know how to guard against carbon monoxide poisoning by knowing its signs, symptoms and causes,” said Charles Crews, vice president of gas operations for Consumers Energy.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning often mimic the flu and can include headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath and stinging or burning of the eyes. Prolonged exposure can cause loss of consciousness and even death. High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes.
If you experience these symptoms and suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, leave your home/the building immediately, call 911 for medical attention and stay out of the building until the problem has been corrected.
“The best defense against CO poisoning is to install an Underwriters Laboratory-approved audible carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home,” said Nicholas Solomon, corporate safety specialist for DTE Energy. “We recommend interconnecting all CO alarms, so when one alarms they all alarm.”
Carbon monoxide alarms are often combined with smoke alarms and can be purchased at hardware and grocery stores. Another way to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning is to make sure your gas appliances are operating and venting properly. A yearly inspection is recommended.
Other tips for protecting against deadly carbon monoxide poisoning include:
Inspecting your furnace annually, with regular tuneups performed by a qualified service professional.
Changing or cleaning furnace air filters at least once every month (more if pets are present) during the heating season.
Regularly inspecting your chimney and vent pipes to be sure they are free of obstructions like leaves and nests.
Installing generators at least 25 feet from an enclosed area and away from doors, windows and fresh air intakes. Never use a generator in a basement, enclosed garage or near air intake pipes.
Avoiding the use of gas stoves or charcoal grills to heat a building. Never leave a supplemental heater or fireplace unattended.
For more information on carbon monoxide safety, go to www.ConsumersEnergy.com/cosafety. — P.S.