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Seattle Fire Department shares advice on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning during power outages

January 10, 2024

In light of recent warnings by the National Weather Service about potential high winds in King County, which may lead to power outages, the Seattle Fire Department has issued crucial guidelines to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Power outages often increase the risk of CO poisoning, a dangerous and potentially fatal condition caused by the odorless and colorless gas produced whenever fossil fuels are burned.

Understanding carbon monoxide risks

Carbon monoxide is an insidious threat due to its inability to be detected by smell or sight.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that at least 430 people in the United States die annually from accidental CO poisoning, and approximately 50,000 people visit emergency departments for the same reason each year.

The primary sources of CO during power outages include gas generators, outdoor grills, and other fossil fuel-burning appliances used improperly indoors or in close proximity to living spaces.

Preventive measures for safety

To combat the dangers of CO, the Seattle Fire Department advises the following measures:

  1. Use portable generators and outdoor grills in well-ventilated areas outside, away from doors, windows, and vents.
  2. Ensure that vents for dryers, furnaces, stoves, and fireplaces are clear of snow and debris.
  3. Avoid idling vehicles in garages, even with the garage door open.
  4. Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas.
  5. Regularly test CO alarms alongside smoke alarms and change batteries at least annually.

Emergency response and further education

In case a CO alarm sounds, the Seattle Fire Department recommends immediately turning off any heating appliance, opening windows for ventilation, and seeking fresh air. Symptoms of CO poisoning include dizziness, vomiting, and headaches. If these symptoms are experienced, it’s vital to call 911 and move to an area with fresh air. Additionally, if an appliance is suspected as the CO source, it’s important to have it repaired by a qualified technician before reuse.

For more information, the public is encouraged to view resources such as the Seattle Fire Department’s Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Handout and related safety videos.

FSJA Comment

The Seattle Fire Department’s proactive measures to educate the public about the dangers of carbon monoxide, especially during power outages, reflect a commitment to community safety.

Their emphasis on prevention through proper appliance usage and the importance of CO alarms is a vital reminder of the unseen hazards that can arise during emergencies like power outages.

These guidelines are a model for broader public safety education. In an era where extreme weather events are increasingly common, such information is more relevant than ever, underscoring the need for vigilance and preparedness in all communities.

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