Be prepared for the “silent killer”

It’s around the winter and Christmas season when carbon monoxide poisoning occurs more frequently and the Ponoka Fire Department is warning residents to be on guard.

  • Dec. 8, 2009 8:00 p.m.

Fire Chief Ted Dillon holds a carbon monoxide detector. Ponoka’s fire department is reminding everyone of the “silent killer” and ways to take precautions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

By Jasmine Franklin.

It’s around the winter and Christmas season when carbon monoxide poisoning occurs more frequently and the Ponoka Fire Department is warning residents to be on guard.

“We’ve had two calls already this week (Dec. 2) — they were all minor thankfully,” said Donna Noble, Ponoka’s fire prevention co-ordinator. “A lot of people don’t think of carbon monoxide this time of year, but it’s important you take the precautions.”

Carbon monoxide, or the “silent killer,” is a colorless, odorless gas that builds up slowly and results from the incomplete burning of fossil fuels such as propane, kerosene, gasoline, oil, natural gas, wood and charcoal.

“A lot of people who get carbon monoxide poisoning suffer from side effects that seem a lot like the flu or a cold,” Noble said. “Any easy way to prevent poisoning is to buy a carbon monoxide detector.”

Everyone knows of the importance of smoke alarms, but carbon monoxide detectors are just as crucial.

The alarm will go off when carbon monoxide levels reach past the “safety” point. When the alarm goes off, individuals are to go outside the home and call the fire department where the source will be assessed.

Door and windows should be opened to allow the house to air out and homeowners are then advised to call a technician as soon as possible to fix the problem.

It’s advised homes should have a carbon monoxide alarm if they contain a gas water heater, an attached garage, fireplace (wood or gas), gas furnace, wood stove or any appliance that uses fossil fuels.

Noble explained that unlike smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms can be placed anywhere in the home since the gas is not heavier than air.

Alarms should be replaced every five to seven years and fresh batteries should be installed every year.

Each year, 450 people die from accidental monoxide poisoning and about 10,000 seek medical attention.

Noble said it’s not uncommon for poisoning to spike this time of year due to furnaces and chimneys being used more often.

“Clean out your furnace and chimneys, change your filters, and check your stove,” Noble said. “A good idea is to give a carbon monoxide alarm as a Christmas gift — it’s a cheap price to pay for saving a life.”

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