Approach all CO calls as deadly threats

Carbon monoxide can show up in places where you least expect it; don't get caught with your guard down


Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel looks at the story of a deadly CO incident and reflects on his own experience; he urges us to be vigilant on all CO calls and push civilians to install CO detectors. 

I'm sure you will join me in extending our collective best wishes to all those affected by this tragic incident.

We typically associate carbon monoxide exposures with northern climates, cold weather and the winter months.

As this story demonstrates, however, CO can be found anywhere that incomplete combustion occurs, along with other atypical settings.

I once responded to an activated CO detector in the middle of summer, in a building without any fossil fuel burning appliances. Using an atmospheric monitoring device we confirmed high levels of CO with no apparent source, but a slight odor of burned rubber.

After investigating for some time, we discovered a belt on a HVAC blower that burned enough to fill the apartment with potentially dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

We were all surprised by this finding, but it certainly reinforced the importance of prevention and public education activities to get CO detectors in homes, along with ensuring a thorough investigation of activated CO alarms using a properly calibrated monitoring device.

Stay safe!

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