What To Do If Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off?
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas that is created when organic compounds and fuels burn without enough oxygen being present, including gasoline (gas), diesel, wood, oil, coal, propane, natural gas, and similar.
Problem with the carbon monoxide is that it is very dangerous for humans and animals and the only real protection are Carbon Monoxide alarms that continuously monitor the presence of CO in the air, which is great. But, what to do if/when Carbon Monoxide goes off?
Published: June 5, 2021.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a very dangerous gas that can cause even death rather quickly.
The effects of Carbon Monoxide (CO) exposure varies from a person to person and depend on the length of Carbon Monoxide (CO) exposure and Carbon Monoxide (CO) concentration and include a headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, drowsiness, confusion, fast heart rate, and in the end - death.
The most common sources of Carbon Monoxide are fuel-burning appliances that are malfunctioning, that are not being properly installed, that are not being used as instructed, etc.
They may also include blocked chimneys, grills being used indoors, power generators being used indoors, vehicles (cars, ATVs, motorcycles, tractors, lawn mowers, small boat outboard engines, etc.) with internal combustion engines being used in closed or semi-closed garages, and similar.
For example, if You run "just for a minute" a 1 liter 4-stroke gas engine at 1800 RPM for whatever reasons, during this one minute, this engine will consume:
V(air) = V(engine) * Time(seconds) * RP(seconds) * 0.5 = 1 liter * 60s * 30s-1 * 0.5 = 900 liters of air
Note: in this example, we use a 4-stroke engine (the intake cycle is every second revolution of the engine), hence the "0.5" coefficient at the end of the formula. For a 2-stroke engine (one intake cycle for every revolution of the engine), this coefficient is "1" and in most situations, it is not even written.
So, if You intend to operate an internal combustion engine indoors - DON'T do it.
Also, if You intend to operate an internal combustion engine in an open garage, keep other doors close and keep the engine running as short as possible - when parking the car in the garage, turn the engine OFF as soon as possible. When exiting the garage, turn the engine ON and exit the garage as soon as possible.
In order to protect yourself and your family from possible Carbon Monoxide poisoning, one can and should use Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms. When such units go Off, there are several things one should do:
- first of all, don't ignore such alarms, really don't!
- open the doors and windows and let the fresh air into your home. If possible, make a strong draft.
- turn off any engine, appliance, or tool that may be the source of Carbon Monoxide (CO).
- evacuate the area and do a head count (pets included!) - be sure that everyone is out.
- contact the nearest emergency center and explain to them what happened and act according to their instructions.
Don't enter the premises until the area is well ventilated and the problems corrected - all Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms must be in "green". Also, if available, a Carbon Monoxide (CO) meter should be used to measure actual CO levels - not absolutely required, but can come in very handy.
If You or any member of your family have any symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning, contact your doctor immediately!
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms
Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms are small electronic devices that measure Carbon Monoxide levels and alarm if they are above a certain level.
For example, according to the UL Standard 2034, home Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms must sound a warning before carbon monoxide levels:
- reach 100 ppm (parts per million) over a period of 90 minutes, or
- reach 200 ppm over a period of 35 minutes, or
- reach 400 ppm over a period of 15 minutes.
These levels are safe enough for an adult to avoid experiencing symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning, at least in most situations - sensitive people, in theory, may experience weak symptoms even before these conditions are met.
Again, if your Carbon Monoxide alarm goes OFF, do NOT ignore it!
Depending on the power source, Carbon Monoxide alarms may be:
- battery operated,
- wired units,
- wired units with a backup battery.
Battery-operated Carbon Monoxide alarms give the user the freedom in positioning the units around the home, garage, workshop, and other areas that must be monitored.
Wired units are usually larger units that have many more features than battery-operated units, but in the case of power failure, they don't work at all.
But, wired units with the backup battery operate even during power outages, keeping the home safer even in such emergencies.
Note: Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms are often combined with smoke alarms into single units - true multifunction, 2-in-1 units. Recommended.
Long Story Short: When the Carbon Monoxide alarm goes Off, don't ignore it, open the windows and doors, make a draft, try to quickly fix the problem which caused the alarm to goes off in the first place, and leave the premises as soon as possible with everybody that were breathing the same air, pets included.
Call emergency services and act according to their instructions. If You suspect that you have Carbon Monoxide poisoning, contact your doctor or physician right away ...
Never, but really never operate internal combustion engines indoors, not even in a garage with the garage door open... that is an accident waiting to happen ...