Annually, in the United States, unintentional carbon monoxide ("CO") poisoning claims hundreds of lives and sends thousands of people to emergency rooms for treatment.  A colorless gas, CO is impossible to see, taste, or smell.  At lower levels of exposure, mild effects of CO causes individuals to experience flu-like symptoms, headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea, and fatigue.  The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health, and the concentration and length of exposure.

The Lake Bluff Fire Department offers the following answers to some frequently asked questions regarding CO poisoning that benefits all residents: 

Where Does Carbon Monoxide Originate?

CO gas may come from several of the following sources: gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces and motor vehicles.

What Safety Measures Are Available?

  • Do not heat a home with a gas range or oven;
  • Do not burn charcoal inside houses or garages;
  • Always fully open the chimney flue when using a fireplace;
  • Do not run a combustion engine, such as a car, lawn mower, or snow blower in enclosed areas;
  • Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting, and chimney systems on an annual basis.

What Actions Do I Take If My Carbon Monoxide Alarm Is Activated?

If no one is feeling ill:

Silence the CO alarm; Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (furnaces, fireplaces, etc.); Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows; Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup; and If immediate assistance is needed, residents are encouraged to call 911 to report the situation.

If illness is a factor:

Immediately evacuate all occupants from the house; Determine how many occupants are ill and track symptoms; Dial 911 and inform the dispatcher of the situation and the number of people that are ill; Do not re-enter the house without first consulting the Fire Department that will be responding to your home; and Following the incident, contact a qualified professional to repair the CO source.

How Do I Protect Myself And My Family From CO Poisoning?

Illinois State law requires the installation of a carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal to be placed near each bedroom in a residential dwelling.  CO alarms measure levels of CO over time and are designed to activate before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms.  It is important to remember that even though family members are not experiencing the flu-like symptoms associated with CO poisoning, the gas may possibly be present in the home.

How Do I Obtain More Information?

For additional questions regarding carbon monoxide detection or carbon monoxide detectors, please feel free to contact the Lake Bluff Fire Department at 847-234-5158.