What are symptoms of CO exposure?
Mild exposure: Slight headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue (“flu-like” symptoms).
Medium exposure: Throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, fast heart rate.
Extreme exposure: Convulsions, unconsciousness, heart and lung failure, brain damage, death.
Just because summer is coming and folks have stopped using their furnaces doesn’t mean there is not danger from household carbon monoxide poisoning, Great Bend Fire Department Battalion Chief Eugene Perkins said.
This is why he wants anyone wanting a CO detector to contact his department.
As part of a state grant, the GBPD purchased 125 smoke and 250 CO alarms for the department to distribute free of charge to those living within the Great Bend city limits. All the smoke alarms have been handed out, but it still has 48 CO alarms left.
The GBFD earlier this year received the grant as part of a statewide effort by health and safety officials to get fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in every home in Kansas. The funds came from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Kansas Fire Injury Prevention Program.
“We are giving these things away free on a first-come, first-serve basis,” Perkins said. Firefighters will come to install the devices and tell the residents everything they need to know about them. “It only takes a few minutes.”
Even though furnaces are for the year, most homes have gas water heaters so there is still a threat of CO problems. “These detectors can mean the difference between life and death,” Perkins said.
The goal of the program, according to the KDHE, is provide money for Kansas communities to reduce fire/CO-related injuries. It is funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The funds go to fire departments and other organizations charged with tending to public safety.
Perkins said the local effort is intended for single-family residents and apartment complexes are not eligible. “However, everyone else may apply.”
Priority will be given to applicants who have small children, elderly or handicapped persons living in the home. A applicant can ask for one device or the other, or both.
Sixty-five percent of home fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms at all or no smoke alarms that work, the KDHE reports. Smoke alarms have played a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries, and have contributed to an almost 50 percent decrease in fire deaths since the late 1970s.
Since the program started in 2001, 20,000 smoke detectors have been installed and are credited with saving 27 lives.
Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. Common appliances, such as furnaces and water heaters, are often sources of CO. If they are not maintained, are improperly ventilated, or malfunction, CO levels can rise quickly. The need for CO detectors has become greater in recent years since houses have become more energy efficient and “air-tight.”
CO is measured in parts per million High levels of CO can cause symptoms in a few minutes. It may take lower levels of CO several hours to cause symptoms. CO detectors should alarm between 4 and 15 minutes when exposed to 400 ppm. CO detectors should alarm between 60 and 240 minutes when exposed to 70 ppm. CO detectors are designed to alarm before carbon monoxide levels become threatening for average, healthy adults. People with cardiac or respiratory problems, infants, unborn babies, pregnant mothers, or elderly people can be more quickly and severely affected by CO.
Those interested in applying for the smoke and CO alarms can call GBFD Station Number 1 at 620-793-4140.