Highlighting an alarming string of carbon monoxide-related emergencies and deaths in the New York City area recently, the Baldwin Fire Department responded to two carbon monoxide incidents of its own over the past few weeks.
On Feb. 4, the department rushed two adults and their young child to South Nassau Communities Hospital after they had been exposed to carbon monoxide in their Northern Boulevard home. “They were all feeling ill,” said Third Deputy Chief Doug Weidmann, who explained that though the carbon monoxide levels were high, all three have recovered.
On Feb. 10, firefighters rushed to a home on Victoria Street after the resident’s carbon monoxide detector went off. One child was transported to Mercy Medical Center and is recovering, Weidmann said. “Everybody else was fine,” said Weidmann. “They were all thankful they had [detectors].”
These latest incidents, said Weidmann, could have turned tragic if the residents hadn’t had detectors. Carbon monoxide is produced from burning any fuel, such as oil, wood or gas, and with the extensive cold the Northeast has seen, the chances of carbon monoxide increased.
“It’s been a pretty big thing for the past couple of years,” said Weidmann, noting the recent deaths of New York City residents. “I think with the recent use of carbon monoxide detectors … it wasn’t that well diagnosed before.”
The effects of carbon monoxide mimic those of the flu, with symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea and dizziness. If poisoning isn’t detected in time, it can result in death.
According to the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, each year hundreds of people experience what they think are symptoms of the flu but which actually result from exposure to carbon monoxide. When appliances and their vents are in good working order, there is little danger from CO. But when they don’t operate properly, fatal CO concentrations can be produced. Running a car in a garage or using charcoal indoors can also cause poisoning.
Because CO is colorless, odorless and tasteless, Weidmann said that the only weapon people have besides inspecting appliances and heating systems regularly is installing carbon monoxide detectors. “Now [detectors] are much better made,” he said.
Weidmann also explained that if residents are unsure about how to work a CO detector, they should call the fire department for more information.
For instance, when a Northern Boulevard homeowner’s CO detector began beeping, residents initially thought it was malfunctioning, when in reality it was detecting over 100 parts per million of CO. “That’s considered serious,” said Weidmann.
They eventually awoke, because their baby wouldn’t stop crying and was ill. Had they waited any longer to call for help, the incident could have turned tragic, and Weidmann explained that detectors are essential. “Don’t ignore [carbon monoxide detectors],” he said. “Call the fire department.”
The Baldwin Fire Department offers these do’s and don’ts when it comes to protecting against carbon monoxide poisoning:
-Install CO detectors in your home, at least one near sleeping areas and another outside the furnace room.
-Make sure the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes are followed when installing fuel-burning appliances.
-Have your heating system inspected and serviced annually.
-Follow manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation.
-Inspect chimneys and vents regularly for improper connections, rust or stains.
-Be aware of any indications that an appliance is not operating properly.
-If your CO detector activates, open windows, get everyone out and call for help.
-Never burn charcoal indoors or in a garage.
-Never use a gas oven for heating.
-Never leave a car running in a garage.
-Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in a closed room.