Carbon Monoxide Safety


Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fossil fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, propane, oil and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking are possible sources of CO. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage could also produce dangerous levels of CO.
However, consumers can protect themselves against CO poisoning by installing CO alarms inside their homes; by properly installing, using, venting, and maintaining heating and cooking equipment; and by being cautious with vehicles or generators in attached garages.

CO is poisonous and can kill cells of the body. CO also replaces oxygen in the blood stream, leading to suffocation. Mild effects feel like the flu, while severe effects include difficulty breathing and even death. Just how sick a person can get from CO poisoning depends on many factors including: age, overall health, concentration of exposure (Measured in parts per million), and length of the exposure.
When blood carries CO rather than oxygen, the CO-carrying cells are called carboxyhemoglobin (COHb)

The best way to protect yourself from CO poisoning is to install CO alarms inside your home to provide an early warning of accumulating CO gas. However, a CO alarm is no substitute for safe practices. The best defenses against CO poisoning are safe uses of vehicles (particularly in attached garages) and proper installation, use, venting, and maintenance of household cooking and heating equipment.

Household CO alarms measure how much CO has accumulated. Currently, CO alarms sound when the concentration of CO in the air corresponds to 10% COHb level in the blood.Since 10% is at the very low end of CO poisoning, the alarm may and should sound before people feel ill or any symptoms.

  • Have everyone leave the building right away. Leave doors open as you go and shut down heating and cooking equipment
  • Use a neighbor's telephone to call 9-1-1 and report the CO alarm warning.
  • Be on the lookout for any symptoms of CO poisoning
  • Get immediate attention if anyone shows signs of CO poisoning

  • CO Alarms are no substitute for smoke alarms. Smoke alarms react to fire by-products, before CO alarms would sound. Smoke alarms give an earlier warning to fire, providing more time to escape.
  • To guard against smoke and fire, be sure that your home has working smoke alarms on every level and in or near every sleeping area.
  • Know the difference between the sound of your smoke alarms and and the sound of your CO alarm
  • Have a home escape plan for any home emergency and practice the plan with all members of your household regularly (at least twice a year)

  • If you need to warm up your vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle, generator, or other fueled engine or motor indoors (even if the garage doors are open)
  • If you have any symptoms of CO poisoning, have your vehicle inspected for exhaust leaks. Have fuel burning household heating appliances (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves, and portable heaters) checked once a year.
  • All chimneys and chimney connectors should be inspected by a qualified technician to verify proper installation, and check for cracks, blockages, or leaks.
  • Only use barbecue grills outside. Never use them in the home or in the garage.
  • When purchasing new heating and cooking equipment, select factory-built products approved by an independent testing laboratory. DO not accept damaged equipment.
  • When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems.
  • When camping, remember to use battery powered heaters and flashlights in tents, trailers, and motor homes.
  • Boat operators should be aware that CO is emitted from any boat's exhaust. When your boat is anchored alongside other's, be aware of the effect your exhaust may have on other vessels and vice versa.


    Station 19