ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Rochester Fire Dept. is used to seeing an uptick in carbon monoxide related calls during the winter months, usually they’re alerted because of carbon monoxide detectors going off. From Saturday morning to Monday morning they responded to three CO calls, two of which people called 911 reporting symptoms consistent with CO poisoning.
“Anything ranging from dizziness, to headache to confusion, maybe flu-like symptoms. Some folks might also experience chest pain, vomiting,” explains Chad Kuhlman a firefighter with RFD.
“The more elevated your carbon monoxide level is the more severe the symptoms are going to be,” adds Capt. Craig Connely.
When responding to calls of suspected CO, the fire department utilizes two different types of monitors so they are able to monitor multiple areas of the home or business. The sensors will trigger an alarm when CO levels in the air are 35 parts per million (ppm) or higher. According to Kuhlman, the odorless, colorless gas accumulates in one’s bloodstream. He says CO binds to hemoglobin about 200 times more than oxygen does, meaning it will greatly inhibit someone’s oxygen carrying capabilities. While healthy adults can handle up to 8 hours of exposure to CO levels between 35-50ppm, the highest level of exposure can render patients unconscious and even cause death.
“By all means, don’t ignore the symptoms,” Kuhlman adds. “Go ahead and call for help right away, get out of the area, get some fresh air and that’s what emergency responders are for, that’s what we’re here for go ahead and call for help.”
To avoid exposure, it’s important to know what sources of CO can be found in your home or business.
“It’s more or less a product of incomplete combustion, it can be created from gas furnaces, water heaters, running a small engine like a snow blower.”
Capt. Connely explains that the gas is naturally given off any time there is a heating unit or engine running and as long as there is proper ventilation, there shouldn’t be an issue.
Two of the three CO events over the weekend were caused because of improper ventilation. One from a furnace and gas fire-place, the other; a gas-powered motor. The third CO event is still being investigated according to RPD.
Fire official add that it’s important people not run cars, snow blowers, or other gas-powered engines in an attached garage. It’s also not safe to heat your home using a gas range or stove. Finally, it’s a good idea to get your gas furnace and hot water heater inspected and serviced annually.
It’s recommended that your home/business have at least one carbon monoxide detector, RFD recommends one with a digital read-out that displays CO levels in the air.