Carbon Monoxide Safety

Man installing carbon monoxide detector at home

Carbon Monoxide is Deadly

You can't see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned.

If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result.

Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances.

Low to moderate exposure levels can produce the following symptoms. Prolonged exposure may have longer term effects on your health.

  • Mild to Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath

What To Do if Exposed

  • Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
  • Go to an emergency room and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure.

Prevent CO Exposure

Prevention is the best defense against CO poisoning. If there is no exposure - there is no danger.

  • If there are fuel-burning appliances in your home install carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Properly maintain any fuel-burning appliances per the manufacturers instructions.
  • Keep gas generators outdoors and away from open windows and doors.
  • Never run a generator in the home, garage, or crawlspace. Opening doors and windows or using fans will NOT prevent CO build-up in the home.
  • Never burn charcoal in homes, tents, vehicles, or garages.
  • Never leave a car running in a garage even with the garage door open.
  • Never install or service combustion appliances without proper knowledge, skills, and tools.
  • Never use a gas range, oven, or dryer for heating.
  • Never put foil on bottom of a gas oven because it interferes with combustion.
  • Never operate an un-vented gas-burning appliance in a closed room or in a room in which you are sleeping.


Contact the Fire Prevention Division, at 360.753.8348 or