Protecting Your Home and Family Against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
As the crisp autumn air sweeps through Colorado and cooler weather approaches, residents are gearing up for colder temperatures, cozy evenings by the fireplace, and snow-covered adventures in the Rockies. However, along with the beauty and charm of winter, comes the silent danger of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Let’s shed light on the importance of CO poisoning awareness, prevention, and safety measures that everyone should know to ensure the safety of friends, family, and themselves.
Understanding Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as wood, natural gas, propane, and gasoline. It is often called the "silent killer" because it cannot be detected by human senses alone. CO poisoning occurs when people inhale high levels of this toxic gas, which can lead to serious health issues or even death.
The Risks in Cold Weather
During the colder months, the risk of CO poisoning increases for several reasons:
Increased Heating Usage: To combat the cold, Coloradans rely heavily on heating systems, fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves, all of which can produce CO if not properly maintained.
Snow-Covered Vents: Snowfall can block exhaust vents for heating systems and appliances, causing CO to back up into the home.
Portable Generators: Power outages due to winter storms may lead to the use of portable generators, which, if used indoors or improperly vented, can be a source of CO emissions.
Prevention and Awareness
Install CO Detectors: Ensure your home is equipped with carbon monoxide detectors on every level and near sleeping areas. Test them regularly and replace batteries annually.
CO Detectors only remain functional for 7 to 10 years. Many detectors do not have an “end of life” alarm, while newer ones do. If your CO detectors are older than 10 years, it’s probably time to replace them. You can check the manufacturer's instructions.
CO TIP: A good place for an additional CO detector is in your mechanical room or basement, where your fuel burning appliances are, since this is where a CO leak usually originates.
Regular Maintenance: Most manufacturers suggest annual maintenance of your heating systems, fireplaces, and other fuel-burning appliances. This includes checking for leaks, blockages, and ensuring proper ventilation.
Ventilation: Keep flues and chimneys clear of obstructions like snow, ice, and debris. Your appliances need lots of air to operate properly. Lack of air causes carbon monoxide. Do not block any vents or close off the furnace area without providing the required vents.
When using a fireplace, it may be necessary to provide additional ventilation; crack a window. A fireplace venting can overpower your gas appliances, causing reverse flow in the flue. This can cause the appliance to produce large amounts of CO which gets sucked into the house by the negative pressure.
Do not use whole-house fans without opening windows. Improper use could cause reverse ventilation at your gas appliances. Ensure there's adequate airflow in your home to prevent CO buildup.
Proper Generator Use: Never run a generator indoors or in an enclosed space, even if you believe ventilation is adequate. Position generators outdoors and far away from windows, doors, and vents. Generators are unregulated and usually produce enormous amounts of CO.
Educate Your Family: Teach your loved ones about the dangers of CO poisoning and what to do in case the alarm sounds. Have a family emergency plan in place.
Be Cautious with Vehicles: Avoid leaving a vehicle running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open. CO can still enter the home through open doors and vents.
Know the Symptoms: Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of CO poisoning, which include headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and fatigue. If you suspect CO poisoning, seek fresh air immediately and call 911.
While many look forward to the changing of seasons and spending more time with loved ones indoors, it's essential to stay vigilant when it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning. By taking the necessary precautions, educating yourself and your family, and ensuring your home is equipped with CO detectors, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from this silent and deadly threat. As the temperatures drop, let's keep our homes comfortable, safe, and free from the risk of CO poisoning.
Attorneys and Adjusters:
If involved in a Carbon Monoxide poisoning incident: Don’t Change Anything!
Do not fix, clean or change appliances or ventilation. Unlike fires, the origin, cause and responsibility of a CO incident can be accurately determined 99% of the time. But only if everything remains in its original condition. Any alterations will have to be reversed for operational testing. All fueled appliances must be tested, separately and all together. Beware experts who are overly safety conscious. It’s difficult to determine the cause accurately without local, inside testing during appliance operation. Done quickly and knowingly, unsafe exposure can be avoided.
For further reading and in-depth information on a wide range of topics related to Fires, Explosions, Oil and Gas incidents, we recommend visiting the Harris Fire Forensics website at harrisff.com, where you can find two in-depth articles on CO Poisoning.
Mr. Randolph Harris, with his extensive 38 years of experience and a proven track record in court, has investigated thousands of Fire, Explosion, and CO cases, making him a trusted expert in the field. If you have any questions or require expert guidance, don't hesitate to contact Mr. Harris today at 720-244-0897 or via email at
Mr. Harris has accurately determined the origin and cause of over 100 CO incidents.
He has been accepted and testified as a Carbon Monoxide Expert in state and federal courts.