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State Fire Marshal Urges Citizens To Identify Signs Of The End Of Life For Carbon Monoxide Alarms

January 19, 2012
As a new year has started, the Office of the State Fire Marshal warns residents across the state to pay special attention to the distinct signals sent by carbon monoxide alarms when their life has expired. Frequently, people may believe that a beep coming out of their CO means it’s time for a battery change, when in fact it means that the device needs to be replaced.
 
“It is extremely important to pay attention to the different beeps that come out of a dead CO alarm. We want to ensure that our residents understand the difference in order to take immediate action and prevent a tragedy,” said State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis. “Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer; the replacement of dead carbon monoxide detectors is also a life saver.”

Since January 2007, it has been an Illinois law to have a properly functioning CO alarm in all dwelling units. The law requires that detectors must have battery power as the primary or secondary power supply. They cannot be solely electric powered. Many carbon monoxide detectors now in service were made prior to the incorporation of the new requirements and may not have an end-of-life signal.

Carbon monoxide is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the nation, claiming approximately 300 lives a year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).  Because CO is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas, it can kill people before they realize its presence. It can be produced by gas or oil appliances such as furnaces, clothes dryers, water heaters, ovens, space heaters or, in some cases, by fireplaces and wood burning stoves.

OSFM advises consumers that if their CO alarms were manufactured before August 2009, prior to the incorporation of the new requirements, they may not have the end-of-life feature. In addition, residents who have a carbon monoxide detector installed for more than three years should look for the manufacturing date which may be found on the outside back of the alarm or visit the company’s website for further information. If none can be found, the device should be replaced without any hesitation.

Carbon monoxide alarms should be tested every month by pushing the test button. If the alarm goes off, follow the basic steps:
  • If your CO detector activates, evacuate everyone from your home immediately leaving the door open for ventilation on your way out and then call 9-1-1
  • Do not re-enter until experts have investigated the problem and declared it safe to return
Other important tips:
  • Ensure that household appliances are installed and running correctly. Have a professional technician check fuel-burning appliances, furnaces, chimneys and vents at least annually for blockages, corrosion, debris and faulty connections. 
  • Check appliances in the home that use natural gas, oil, wood and kerosene such as water heaters, clothes dryers, ranges, ovens, gas-powered refrigerators and pilot lights. 
  • Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in a room with closed doors or windows or in rooms where people are sleeping. 
  • Check venting systems to the outside for cracks and blockages such as flues, chimneys and fireplaces. 
  • Make sure space heaters are vented properly. 
  • Never operate generators indoors. 
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent. 
  • Never use gasoline-powered tools and engines indoors. 
  • Never use gas-powered appliances such as an oven or clothes dryer for heating a home. 
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even if the garage door is open.
For additional information about carbon monoxide poisoning visit the OSFM webpage at www.sfm.illinois.gov or the National Fire Protection Association.


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