By Battalion Chief Wade Watkins
As a reminder, carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by burning gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. Improperly ventilated appliances and engines, particularly in a tightly sealed or enclosed space, may allow carbon monoxide to accumulate to dangerous levels. Having the proper alarm system supports early warning and improves the safety. Each year, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is responsible for more than 50,000 emergency department visits, resulting in more than 400 deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Carbon monoxide, poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream. When too much carbon monoxide is in the air, the body replaces the oxygen in the red blood cells with carbon monoxide. In this circumstance, it was likely that the wind had blown the pilot light of the furnace out or lessened the ability for complete combustion to occur.
“Real World” Close Call
On a frigid January morning, Riverton’s crew from Station 124 responded to elderly female in a traditional Riverton home. Her family had noticed that her overall health had declined rapidly with what seemed to be like flu like symptoms. Upon arrival, the crew was interacting with the patient’s daughter who seemed to be out of sorts and focusing on her phone more so than she needed to communicate with family. The crew focused on assessing and treating the elderly female and the paramedics transported her to a local hospital.
The remaining crewmembers were cleaning up equipment and supplies when a senior crewmember thought it would be valuable to monitor the air inside the home with a gas monitor, as this crew specializes in hazardous materials response. They found that the alarms were reading extremely high levels of carbon monoxide. These levels would most likely of been fatal to all that occupied the home. If the family of four had not called 911 for the medical needs of their mother. The entire family had signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning/exposure and were medically treated for their exposure.
Remember, when in doubt call 911 and your local responders will make sure you are safe!