Carbon Monoxide Safety

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


Each year people become ill or die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. This is often due to:

Carbon Monoxide Alert

  • Improperly operating a generator in an area not properly ventilated.
  • Using a charcoal grill indoors.
  • Running a vehicle in an enclosed garage.

Be safe - learn about carbon monoxide, the symptoms or carbon monoxide poisoning, and how to avoid it.


What is Carbon Monoxide?          CO Warnings          CO Detectors


Carbon Monoxide Danger SymbolCarbon Monoxide Can Be Deadly

You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous.

However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances.

Symptoms of CO poisoning:

  • At moderate levels, you or your family can experience:
    • Severe headaches,
    • Dizziness
    • Mental confusion
    • Nausea
    • Fainting
    • You can even die if these levels persist for a long time
  • Low levels symptoms may include:
    • Shortness of breath
    • Mild nausea
    • Mild headaches
    • May have longer term effects on your health

Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause. 

Actions to Take:

If you experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning:

  • Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
  • Go to an emergency room and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide in the home



  • Never leave a car running in a garage even with the garage door open.
  • Never run a generator in the home, garage, or crawlspace. Opening doors and windows or
    using fans will NOT prevent CO build-up in the home.
  • When running a generator outdoors, keep it away from open windows and doors.
  • Never burn charcoal in homes, tents, vehicles, or garages.
  • Never install or service combustion appliances without proper knowledge, skills, and tools.
  • Never use a gas range, oven, or dryer for heating.
  • Never put foil on bottom of a gas oven because it interferes with combustion.
  • Never operate an un-vented gas-burning appliance in a closed room or in a room in which you are sleeping.


Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon Monoxide DetectorA carbon monoxide detector is a device that detects the presence of carbon monoxide. If a high level of CO is detected, the device sounds an alarm to alert you and your family of a potential risk. Take immediate action and ventilate the area or safely leave the building if CO poisoning symptoms (confusion, headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, etc.) are experienced (1).

To Purchase a Detector:

Carbon monoxide detectors can be purchased at most retail and hardware stores. More information can be found at the Underwriters Laboratories, Product Safety Tips.

Additional information:

Information complied from:
WinterSafe, a Publication of FEMA and the Emergency Management Division
“Protect your family and yourself from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning” E.P.A. Indoor Air Quality
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
(1). Wikipedia - Carbon Monoxide Detector

© Copyright 2014 Washington Military Department - Emergency Management Division