Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) gas is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness.

If your family experiences some or all of these symptoms but you start to feel better after leaving your house, it may be due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

If carbon monoxide is suspected or the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, do the following:
  1. Immediately move outdoors to fresh air and do a head count.
  2. Open a window if you can't get outdoors.
  3. If there are pets in the home, remove them without endangering yourself or other family members.
  4. Call 9-1-1 from your cell phone or a neighbor's phone. Tell them about the symptoms each family member is experiencing and when they started.
  5. Stay near your house and wait for the authorities to arrive.
  6. Do not re-enter the home until emergency service responders have arrived, aired out the house, and determined it is safe to re-enter.
  7. Correct the problem before starting the heating appliances.
  8. If a carbon monoxide alarm sounds again, repeat the above steps. Do not ignore alarms.

To avoid CO exposure, take the following steps:
  1. Purchase a UL-listed (Underwriters Laboratories) carbon monoxide alarm for each level of your home. Install and test according to manufacturer’s directions. The Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) is an independent, not-for-profit product-safety testing and certification organization and has tested products for public safety for more than a century. If you do not know how to do this, call a professional.
  2. Install the detector in every sleeping area.
    • CO does rise like smoke does. Install carbon monoxide detectors from knee-height level up to chest-height level.
    • Make sure the CO detector isn't blocked by furniture or other hazards.
    • Remember to change your carbon monoxide detector's batteries at least twice a year.
    • Test the detector monthly.
  3. Make sure heating appliances are installed and used in accordance with manufacturer's instructions. If you do not know how to check your appliances, have a professional do it.
  4. Make sure chimneys and vents draw all gases out of the home. If you do not know how to do this, have a professional check your home.
  5. Have the heating system, chimney and vents inspected and services annually by qualified heating contractor.
  6. Never use charcoal grills indoors. The smoke will increase CO levels.
  7. Never heat your home with a gas kitchen range. Use the range only for cooking.
  8. Always use a kitchen range hood, vented to the outdoors, when cooking on a gas range.
  9. Never warm-up or run vehicles or other gasoline engines in garages or indoors.
  10. Possible sources of CO include:
    • Furnace or boiler
    • Gas or fuel-oil water heater
    • Gas or wood fireplace
    • Gas kitchen range
    • Plugged, rusted, disconnected, or defective chimneys or vents
    • Backdrafting of combustion gases into the home
    • Automobiles in attached garages
  11. Certain clues can indicate a carbon monoxide problem, such as:
    • Rusting or streaking on chimney or vent
    • Loose or missing furnace panel
    • Soot on venting or appliances
    • Loose or disconnected venting
    • Debris or soot falling from chimney
    • Moisture on interior side of windows

Updated: 5/2009