Young families settling in to their first home have a lot to think about — maybe more than they’ve ever had to consider before. With all the new financial and legal responsibilities, new neighbors, new home features and their maintenance, and more, it’s crucial that safety remains top of mind. Don’t fret — ensuring that you and your family have safeguards in place can take very little time.
Home safety raises many issues including the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Here is some useful background along with practical tips on CO alarm placement and maintenance.
Often dubbed “the silent killer,” CO is a colorless and odorless gas that is impossible to detect without an alarm. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CO poisoning sends about 15,000 people to emergency rooms each year.
Alarms should be installed on every floor of the home and near every sleeping area to help detect the presence of CO throughout your home, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says. Make sure alarms are installed at least 15 feet away from potential sources of CO to reduce the chance of false alarms. Test alarm function monthly and change batteries every six months.
Nearly everyone has carbon monoxide sources in their home. CO may enter your home through leaks in furnaces or chimneys; back-drafts from furnaces, gas-fueled water heaters and fireplaces; gas stoves and generators; and car exhaust from an attached garage, among other sources, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA suggests hiring a professional to clean and check furnaces, flues and chimneys for leaks each year.
CO poisoning is also notoriously difficult to diagnose. The symptoms may mimic those of many other illnesses and may include nausea, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and shortness of breath, says the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In more severe poisoning cases, people may experience vomiting, confusion or unconsciousness, according to the CPSC.
If a CO alarm sounds, the NFPA says you should move outdoors or go near an open window or door for fresh air and then call emergency responders.
Make sure to clear CO alarms of all dust and debris. Ensure that alarms are plugged all the way into the outlet or, if solely battery operated, have working batteries installed. Check or replace batteries when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall, and make certain each person in your home can hear the CO alarm sound from his or her sleeping room and that the sound is loud enough to awaken everyone.
If you have young children, you may want to consider an alarm that features both voice and location technology that tells you where in your home CO has been detected. Studies have shown that children ages 6 to 10 awaken more easily to a voice than to the traditional beep of an alarm.
There’s a lot to keep in mind as you set up your new household. Taking precautions to avoid CO poisoning may help keep you and your family safer as you start this new adventure — and beyond.