Do you test your carbon monoxide (CO) alarms once a month? It’s important to test your CO alarms that often to make sure they’re working properly. Your CO alarm provides an early warning of deadly CO gas.
“Often called the invisible killer, CO is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels burn incompletely,” says Jarrod Wellik, Chief of the Newton Fire Department. “In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel can be sources of CO. Vehicles running in an attached garage, or a generator running inside a home or attached garage, can also produce dangerous levels. The only way to detect CO is with a working CO alarm.”
According to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), between 2006 and 2010, fire departments received an average of 72,000 non-fire CO calls per year, 94 percent occurring in the home.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that from 1999 to 2010, an average of 430 people were killed by unintentional CO poisoning per year from a variety of sources including consumer appliances and motor vehicles.
Newton Fire Department, NFPA, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) advise residents to take the following steps to ensure that their household is safe from CO:
- First, never ignore an alarming CO alarm! It is warning you of a potentially deadly hazard. If the alarm signal sounds do not try to find the source of the CO. Immediately move outside to fresh air. Call your emergency services, fire department, or 911.
- Ensure your CO alarm is working properly by following the steps below:
- Test CO alarms once a month using the test button, and replace CO alarms if they fail to respond correctly when tested.
- Make sure you have CO alarms in your home outside each separate sleeping area, on every level and in other locations as required by laws, codes or standards.
- Replace the CO alarm according to manufacturer’s instructions or when the end-of-life signal sounds.
- Know the difference between the sound of the CO alarm and the smoke alarm and their low-battery signals. If the audible low-battery signal sounds, replace the batteries, or replace the device.
In addition to monthly testing, make sure that you have the needed number of CO alarms in your home. They should be installed and maintained in a central location outside each separate sleeping area, on every level of the home, and in other locations, as required by laws, codes, or standards. Follow manufacturer’s installation instructions. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one CO alarm sounds, they all sound.
Newton residents with questions and/or concerns about CO alarm testing and alarm requirements may contact the Newton Fire Department at 641-792-3347.