We've all heard of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. It has been ominously dubbed "the silent killer" because of its colorless, odorless, tasteless, and non-irritating properties. As children, we learn a great deal about fire safety, having drills at school and lessons at home from our parents. But many of us are in the dark when it comes to the causes of carbon monoxide poisoning and the best preventative measures to take. Read on to learn what you need to know about the silent killer to protect yourself and your family.
What produces carbon monoxide?Carbon monoxide, or CO, is produced by burning fuels. Common items that emit CO gas, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, include:
- motor vehicles
- small engines
- gas ranges
Why is CO so dangerous?Carbon monoxide, when inhaled, replaces the oxygen in our blood. If too much CO builds up in a closed room it can cause serious health problems or even death. Common symptoms from CO poisoning include:
- fast breathing or heart rate
Who is at Risk?Everyone can be exposed to carbon monoxide, but some are at greater risk than others. According to Mayo Clinic, the most at-risk people for CO poisoning include:
- Unborn babies - fetal blood cells absorb CO faster than regular blood cells, therefore unborn babies experience oxygen deprivation much more rapidly
- Children - kids take breaths more frequently than adults, making them more susceptible to CO poisoning
- Older adults - older people are more likely to experience brain damage from CO exposure
What preventative steps can you take?The home is full of potential dangers when it comes to CO poisoning. Here are some of the most important steps you can take to reduce risk:
- Buy and maintain CO detectors for your home
- Never use your oven to heat your home
- Never leave a vehicle or small engine running in an enclosed space such as a shed or garage
- Do not use a charcoal grill inside
- Do not use a gas lantern inside a tent for prolonged periods of time
- Don't run a generator in your home or basement
- Have your chimney checked for blockages
- Check the ventilation on your gas appliances
- Fire safety is also carbon monoxide safety - breathing in smoke fumes from a house fire can cause CO poisoning and death
Home is the the most comfortable place to be. We relax after a long day of work in the living room, eat meals with our family in our kitchen, and sleep soundly in our beds at night. All of this comfort can sometimes cause us to overlook basic safety habits that keep us and our property safe. One of the chief threats to our safety at home is house fires. A great way to keep tabs on our fire preparedness is to have a yearly "fire safety week" with our families to teach and reinforce important information around fires. Read on to see the five-day plan that, for just a few minutes per day, has the potential to save lives.
Day 1: Smoke detectorsThe most basic fire safety items that each home has are the smoke detectors. On day one take the kids around the house and show them where each smoke detector is. Have them block their ears and show them how to test the detectors. Change all of the batteries as well. Don't be conservative or frugal with batteries when it comes to smoke detectors; it's worth the extra few bucks to know that you can depend on them.
Day 2: Fire extinguishersOn the second day, bring the kids around the house again showing them the location of fire extinguishers and explaining their function. If there ever is a small house fire you don't want to fumbling around with an extinguisher trying to learn how to use it. Explain that these are not toys and can be dangerous. If your kids are old enough to be home alone, teach them how to use the extinguishers. If the kids are too young tell them to seek you out immediately if they see or smell smoke, or think there might be a fire. Read the pressure gauge on all of your fire extinguishers to make sure they're adequately pressurized. Replace fire extinguishers that are over twelve years old.
Day 3: Escape planEvery house should have an evacuation plan in case of a fire. Each room should have two escape routes in case one is blocked off by fire or some other barrier. Have your children go through the evacuation routes for each of their rooms. Do this for yourself as well to ensure there are no problems with your plan. Then take the family outside to a meeting spot away from the house. Tell them that this is where each member of the family will meet in case of a fire.
Day 4: Fire hazardsThe average house has unlimited potential for fire hazards. Curtains near heaters or ovens, candles too close to flammable objects, and even power outlets can all cause a house fire. Before today's lesson, go through your house and find potential fire hazards and teach your family how to correct these habits during today's lesson. If your kids are old enough to cook, run through various cooking fire hazards as well.
Day 5: ReviewToday, review the previous four days' lessons with your family. You can also use today to cover the top eight causes of house fires according to the National Fire Protection Association:
- Electrical and lighting
- Dryers and washing machines
- Children playing with fire (matches, lighters, etc.)
- Christmas trees