Family Sickened by CO from Generator Inside Home

At about 7:45 am, Friday, October 15, 2010, Prince George’s County Firefighter/Medics from Silver Hill Fire/EMS Station #829 were dispatched to check on the welfare of an adult male that requested his neighbor call 911. Firefighter/Medics arrived at the single family home in the 3500 block of 29th Avenue in Temple Hills to find a family of six outside of the structure complaining of sudden illness including headaches. Firefighter/Medics quickly assessed the patients as having been exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) and initiated treatment. Firefighters searched the home and found a gasoline powered generator had been operating in the attached garage. The generator was being used for electricity as the house had no power.

Atmospheric testing conducted by firefighters indicated that CO levels inside the home were at 200 parts per million (ppm). A normal atmospheric level of 0 up to 30 ppm is considered healthy. Prolonged exposures to CO can be fatal as was the case when three Hyattsville residents died of CO poisoning in late May of this year.

Paramedics treated and evaluated the patients on the scene and consulted with emergency room physicians that concurred that the patients could be transported to a local hospital. If the patient’s condition were considered “serious” they would have been transported to a medical facility in Baltimore for hyperbaric treatment. Two adult females (20’s) and three children (between ages of 1 up to 13) were transported to a local hospital in “good” condition. The adult male refused transportation to the hospital.

Gasoline powered generators produce a large amount of CO in a very short period of time and should not be used inside of any structure. CO is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas and is referred to as the “The Silent Killer.” CO results from incomplete oxidation of carbon in combustion and/or the inadequate ventilation of CO after normal combustion. Sources of CO are unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment including automobile exhaust.

With the cold weather season approaching the men and women of the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department want to keep you safe and offer these safety reminders. We encourage our citizens and residents to have their heating system checked and have chimneys and flu pipes cleaned and inspected annually by a certified professional. Additionally, never use a fuel based generator or cooking grill inside of a home or attached structure such as a garage.

Because the properties of CO (colorless, odorless and tasteless) make it nearly impossible to detect without monitoring equipment. A working CO alarm is the best method citizens and residents can use to detect the presence of CO. CO alarms are inexpensive and can be purchased at hardware and home improvement stores.

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