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The Illinois Office Of The State Fire Marshal Urges Residents To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Press Release - Friday, January 09, 2015

SPRINGFIELD –The Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) wants to encourage residents to take a proactive approach to preventing carbon monoxide poisoning this year. Carbon monoxide (CO) causes sickness and can lead to death if not detected. Taking simple preventative measures can help keep families safe. 

“Carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by just having working CO alarms in each household,” said State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis. “Just as we stress the importance of having smoke alarms all year round, CO detectors go hand in hand when it comes to saving lives.”

In 2013 in Illinois, 11,481 carbon monoxide related incidents were reported to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).  The National Association of Fire Protection (NFPA) has reported a significant increase in the number of carbon monoxide incidents, attributed to the increased use of CO detectors, which alert people to the presence of CO.

According to the Illinois Carbon Monoxide Alarm Act (430 ILCS 135/10), every dwelling unit shall be equipped with at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm in an operating condition within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes. This includes structures that contain more than one dwelling unit. By making sure that detectors are in place and in good working condition, residents can help ensure their own safety.

Residents should be especially wary of CO poisoning during the remaining winter months. Carbon monoxide related incidents are most likely to occur during the winter months because common sources for CO leaks in the home include fuel-burning appliances and heating equipment. CO leaks happen when heating equipment or gas lines are not installed correctly or not maintained adequately. Cooking equipment, vehicles running in an attached garage, and fireplaces could also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is considered a “silent killer” because it’s odorless, colorless, and invisible. The symptoms of CO poisoning are very similar to those of the flu and include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness. Other signs of possible CO presence are condensation on walls and windows, house plants dying, house pets becoming sluggish, and chronic odors from malfunctioning appliances.

The OSFM recommends the following tips to prevent CO poisoning:

• Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors with fresh batteries.
• Put carbon monoxide detectors/alarms on each floor of a home, especially near each sleeping area.
• Check CO detectors once a month and be familiar with the sounds that the detector makes.
• CO detectors have a limited operating life. Check the manufacturer's instructions for information on replacement.
• Never use a generator, grill, stove, or other fossil fuel-burning device inside a home, garage, or other enclosed area.
• Never heat a home with an oven.
• Keep interior and exterior air vents clear of blockages or obstructions.
• Make sure appliances are installed by a qualified technician and operated according to the manufacturer's instructions and local building codes.
• Have the heating system inspected and serviced annually; change or clean furnace filters regularly.
• Have the chimney or appliance vents cleaned and inspected for leakage, debris blockages, or a buildup of creosote. If you see black stains on the outside of the chimney or flue, it could mean pollutants are leaking into your home.

For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning and ways to be safe please visit www.sfm.illinois.gov or www.nfpa.org/co

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