Ice Storm 2013: How to avoid the deadly risks of carbon monoxide poisoning
Published Tuesday, December 24, 2013 1:36PM EST
As blackouts caused by the weekend ice storm stretch into a third day, some residents desperate for heat are attempting to warm their homes in potentially dangerous ways.
Some people have begun attempting to heat their homes using barbecues and generators indoors. Fire officials and politicians say this is extremely dangerous , however, as that can cause the carbon monoxide poisoning which claimed the lives of two people in a small town north of Toronto Monday.
They died after carbon monoxide seeped into their home from a generator running in the garage. Eleven other people in and around Toronto were taken to hospital Monday night because of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Here’s what you need to know about carbon monoxide and how to stay safe when trying to stay warm.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a gas produced by furnaces, space or water heaters, clothes dryers, ovens, wood stoves and other household appliances that run on fossil fuels like gas, oil or coal. These appliances contain ventilation and exhaust systems that limit the amount of carbon monoxide people inhale. But because carbon monoxide is odourless and tasteless, when ventilation systems malfunction, humans are not able to detect increased levels. People should install at least one carbon monoxide detector for each level of their home.
If carbon monoxide poisoning becomes an issue, how will I know?
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble those of the flu. Signs of low-level poisoning include tiredness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath. Your skin may also turn pink or red in response to rising blood pressure. Leave your home immediately and call 9-11 if you believe you are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Why is using a barbecue or generator inside so risky?
These types of appliances were meant to be used outdoors and do not have the proper ventilation systems to filter out carbon monoxide. If used indoors, the carbon monoxide will linger, and pose a serious threat to people.
Because of power outages, carbon monoxide detectors in people’s homes may not be working properly, Capt. David Eckerman of Toronto Fire Services told CTV News Channel.
“They may be compromised,” he said. “The battery backup may not exist, so you may not get your warning that you would otherwise get.
He says the simplest solution is to not bring barbecues and generators into your home at all.
How can I use a generator safely?
Ontario's Electrical Safety Authority says the safest place to operate a generator is in a dry outdoor area away from open doors, windows and vents. Never use them indoors. If you have to use extension cords, make sure to lay them flat as coiled cords get extremely hot. Allow gasoline generators to cool down for at least two minutes before refuelling.
(Sources: Ontario's Electrical Safety Authority; City of Toronto)