JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Recent carbon monoxide poisoning deaths in Missouri following this January's severe ice storms bring home the need to beware the dangers of a silent killer, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA).
FEMA and SEMA warn Missourians to stay alert for the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when spending more time in vehicles or using unfamiliar fuel-burning heaters, generators or appliances in and around their homes. Opening doors and windows or operating fans will not guarantee your safety. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is particularly high during the cold weather season.
"Too often, when people have lost power after a disaster, they will use alternate sources of energy to cook and heat with," said Tom Hall, federal coordinating officer for the Missouri recovery. "This is an especially grave risk in Missouri as residents without power try to use generators to heat and power their homes and businesses."
Carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of fuel-burning appliances kills more than 200 people each year and sends about 10,000 to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. Others die from carbon monoxide produced while burning charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent. Still others die from carbon monoxide produced by cars unintentionally left running in attached garages or gas-powered generators where the exhaust can accumulate in living spaces.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning any fossil fuel. The initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu and include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, and irregular breathing. High-level exposure to carbon monoxide can cause death.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that consumers use gasoline-powered generators outdoors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Furthermore, every living space should have at least one carbon monoxide detector that meets the requirements of the most recent Underwriters Laboratories Standard 2034 or the requirements of the International Approval Services 6-96 standard.
For more information on carbon monoxide and the safe use of generators, read this CPSC publication at: www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/portgend.html
FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation, to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.