Firefighters stress prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning this winter

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Knoxville firefighters are stressing the importance of preventative measures after two men died this week from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

Late Wednesday night, firefighters with the Knoxville Fire Department responded to a medical call at a duplex off Moody Avenue. Firefighters found two men they believe died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

More: Two men die of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning inside Knoxville duplex

Captain D.J. Corcoran with KFD says firefighters found a propane tank operating a heater inside the home and that there was an abnormally high level of CO.

“They found the presence of carbon monoxide at the rate of 260 parts per million. To put that into perspective, what’s acceptable inside of a home is about 9 parts per million, in a building about 30 parts per million. So, it was well exceeding that level,” said Captain Corcoran.

Carbon monoxide doesn’t have an odor and it’s impossible for us to detect.

Firefighter Eric Hickman with KFD used a CO meter to demonstrate how they check levels. Hickman held the meter to the tail pipe of a car and explained inside your home, “Anything that’s 9-ppm or above that’s when you want to start evacuating.”

Firefighters say the best preventative tool is using a carbon monoxide detector inside the home.

“And number two, don’t take anything that’s designed for outside use, whether it’s a grill or a propane tank or a generator, don’t bring those items into your home,” said Captain Corcoran.

Captain Corcoran says it’s important to pay attention to the symptoms because CO can build up quickly, “First it’s headaches, it can be redness or flushness of your skin, sleepy, drowsy and there could be nausea.”

The CDC says 430 people die every year in the U.S. from accidental CO poisoning and 50,000 people are hospitalized.

Preventing CO poisoning

  • Change the batteries in your CO detector every six months. Detectors can be battery operated or plug into an outlet
  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a technician every year
  • Keep vents free of debris
  • Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open

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