Most of us know exactly what to do when we hear the fire alarm start to ring – evacuate or somehow get that popcorn/burning dinner off the stove and out the door! Most homes now also have carbon monoxide (CO) detectors as well. Do you know what to do if that starts going off?
First, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that has been named the “silent killed” by many in the health profession. By the time your detector is going off, it means the CO levels have gotten to a dangerous level. Get familiar with the detector noise (an intermittent beeping sound) so you are able to identify it right away and start to look for signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Once the alarm is sounding, start to check yourself and other family members for the signs of CO poisoning. These signs include headache, upset stomach, dizziness and/or confusion. At this point, you’ll want to call the hospital and get everyone out of the house, even your pets! Note: DO NOT re-enter until proper measures have been taken by emergency services and they give the okay to return.
If there are no signs of poisoning, it is okay to ventilate your home by opening the windows. You should then turn off all appropriate appliances such as gas-fired furnaces or running generators. Once you feel your home has been ventilated, go ahead and re-enter and reset the CO detector.
If it does not sound again, you should take the CO detector in for inspection or call someone to come repair it. If it DOES sound again and there are still no signs of poisoning, exit the house and call your local fire department. They will be able to find the source of the leak and let you know when it is safe to enter again.
So remember: Know what your CO detector sounds like, and make sure to act right away if you hear it going off!