Protecting Emergency Responders from CO Poisoning

Each year, almost 4,000 people die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in this country. Another 10,000 people become seriously ill from this deadly gas, which can be emitted from many common household sources, including attached garages, barbecue grills, ceiling mounted unit heaters, chimneys, gas clothes dryers, gas or oil space heaters, gas refrigerators, gas, oil, wood or coal furnaces, paint removers, pool/spa heaters, tobacco smoke, unvented cooking appliances, unvented heaters, vehicle exhausts, water heaters, and wood burning fireplaces.

In Maine, four young people died from carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by fumes from a generator running in the basement of the cabin they were in.

In Maine, four young people died from carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by fumes from a generator running in the basement of the cabin they were in.

Often referred to as “the silent killer,” symptoms of CO poisoning often mimic the same symptoms of the flu or food poisoning. Typical symptoms may include difficulty breathing, drowsiness, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Victims who have high levels of CO in their systems may suffer from convulsions and/or fall into a coma, and death.

Because those suffering from CO poisoning often mistake their symptoms for something else, most dispatched calls from victims are treated as medical emergencies, leaving emergency responders dispatched to the locations at risk of becoming victims of CO poisoning, as well. This is why it is critical for responders to have the proper training and proper detection equipment to detect the presence of CO.

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Nine people were hospitalized with CO poisoning when one of the family members accidentally left a car running in the garage.

Emergency Film Group’s CO: Response to Carbon Monoxide Incidents DVD provides training to EMTs, firefighters, industrial fire teams, poison control center personnel, plant safety personnel and others who may be called upon to safely respond to an incident involving carbon monoxide, the most common type of poisoning responded to by EMS.

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