Keep your family safe from carbon monoxide Published Nov. 29, 2011 By Staff Sgt. Scott Edgmond Nellis Fire Prevention Office NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas, capable of causing sudden illness and death. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning, more than 20,000 Americans visit the emergency room from exposure to carbon monoxide and more than 4,000 Americans are hospitalized due to CO poisoning, according to the United States Fire Administration. Carbon monoxide is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by gas ranges and heating systems, cars and trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood. The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are close to that of the flu, but without the fever. Low levels of CO exposure may cause a person to suffer from headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and irregular breathing. As the levels of CO rise, a person may suffer from more intense symptoms, such as mental confusion, vomiting, loss of consciousness and loss of muscle control. Ultimately, without medical attention, a person can die from CO poisoning. One of the most important things a person can do to help detect CO fumes is to install CO detectors in his or her home. Early detection of this gas is the key to keeping everyone in the house safe. When purchasing a CO detector, make sure it is Underwriter Laboratories (UL) Listed. When placing and maintaining the detection device, always follow the manufacturer's instructions. The proper placement of the detection devices is important for early notification. One CO detector should be placed outside individual bedrooms and an additional detector should be placed inside the general living area. Do not put a CO detector near the storage area of cleaning chemicals because these can cause a detector to malfunction. Batteries for CO detectors should be changed annually at a minimum. The device beeping every few minutes signals that the battery is dying and the battery needs to be change immediately. People should notify the fire department immediately if there is a chance that CO fumes are present. For further information about CO detectors or any other fire safety issues, contact the Nellis Fire Prevention office at 702-682-9630.