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June 28, 2011 > New carbon monoxide alarm requirements

New carbon monoxide alarm requirements

Submitted By Hayward Fire Department

According to the American Medical Association, carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States. The California Air Resources Board has determined that 30 to 40 "avoidable deaths," on average, occur in California each year in this way. Additionally, carbon monoxide poisoning is the cause of 175 to 700 "avoidable" emergency room visits and hospitalizations in the state.

California's Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 requires all residential property be equipped with a California State Fire Marshal-approved carbon monoxide detector if the property has a fossil fuel-burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or an attached garage, as follows:

All single-family homes (owner-or tenant-occupied) must be equipped with a detector (which can cost less than $30) on or before July 1, 2011. All other residential units (duplex/apartment/condominium complex) must be equipped with a detector on or before January 1, 2013.

Information specific to the Act is found in the California Health and Safety Code Sections 13260 thru 13263. Information specific to property owners and property management responsibility and disclosure requirements are found in California Health and Safety Code sections 17926, 17926.1, and 17926.2.

What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas, produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane and natural gas. Products and equipment powered by internal combustion engines such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers and power washers also produce CO.

At lower exposure levels, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation and nausea fatigue. At moderate concentrations, angina, impaired vision and reduced brain function may result. At higher concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal.

The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.

Where Should I Place Carbon Monoxide Alarms?
CO is slightly lighter than air and may be found with warm, rising air, so detectors should be placed on a wall about 5 ft. above the floor. It may be placed on the ceiling. Do not place the CO alarm right next to or over a fireplace or flame-producing appliance. Keep it out of the way of pets and children. Each floor needs a separate detector. If you are getting a single carbon monoxide detector, place it near the sleeping area and make sure the alarm is loud enough to alert the occupant. Read the manufacturer's instructions for additional information on placement and maintenance of the device.

What Do I Do If The Alarm Sounds?
Don't ignore the alarm! It is meant to sound before you experience symptoms. GET FRESH AIR IMMEDIATELY! Open doors and windows; turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.

If anyone experiences symptoms of CO exposure, DIAL 911 OR GO TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM. Tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test soon after exposure.

Be prepared to answer the following questions for the doctor: Do your symptoms occur only in the house? Do they disappear or decrease when you leave home and reappear when you return? Is anyone else in your household complaining of similar symptoms? Did everyone's symptoms appear at about the same time? Are there any fuel-burning appliances in the home? Have the appliances been inspected lately? Are you certain they are working properly?

No matter what, do not re-enter the home until it has been ventilated and the source of the CO leak has been identified and remedial action taken. Appliances or chimneys should be checked by a professional as soon as possible.

How Can I Reduce Exposure To Carbon Monoxide?
Ensure combustion equipment is maintained and properly adjusted. Vehicular use should be carefully managed adjacent to buildings. Additional ventilation can be used as a temporary measure when high levels of CO are expected for short periods of time.

Keep gas appliances properly adjusted. Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one. Install and use an exhaust fan vented to the building's exterior over gas stoves. Open flues when fireplaces are in use. Choose properly-sized wood stoves that are certified to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's emission standards and ensure doors on all wood stoves fit tightly. Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up the central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys), annually. Repair any leaks promptly. Do not idle the car inside the garage.

Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds or similar areas. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can accumulate quickly in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has stopped running. Additional information on CO poisoning prevention can be found at the Consumer Products Safety Commission and Environmental Protection Agency websites.

For more information on fire safety tips or other Disaster Preparedness related materials, visit www.Hayward-ca.gov click on the red "Disaster Preparedness" button or contact the Hayward Fire Department Emergency Services Office for additional information at (510) 583-4948.

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