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Police and Fire News

Baltimore County Police and Fire News

Official News Blog of Baltimore County police, fire, homeland security and emergency management. Call 911 to report crimes in progress and emergencies.
Keyword: carbon monoxide

Baltimore County firefighters remind residents to check the batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide alarms when Daylight Saving Time returns this Sunday, March 9.

Firefighters across the nation suggest that residents check alarm batteries twice a year - in the spring and fall, at the same time we reset our clocks. This year, we "spring forward" to Daylight Saving Time at 2 a.m., Sunday, March 9.

Smoke alarms are the single most important means of preventing house and apartment fire death. They provide an early warning signal if there is a fire so you can escape. Most hardware and home supply stores carry them.

Deadly Odorless Gas

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly odorless, invisible gas produced by fuel-burning appliances. High levels of CO can kill within hours. CO detectors sound an alarm when levels of the gas rise so you can get out of the house, call 911 and discover the source of the problem - before someone becomes ill. Every home should be equipped with CO detectors.

For detailed information, see the Baltimore County Fire Department's fact sheets on their web site under Fire and Life Safety.

A young man was transported in critical condition this afternoon to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center after he was exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide in his Randallstown area home. The patient's mother and brother also were transported to Shock Trauma with less severe symptoms of CO poisoning.

Fire and EMS personnel responded to the 8200 block of Rockdale Avenue at 2:32 p.m. for a call possibly involving CO exposure in a single-family home. Gas meters carried by BCoFD personnel began sounding as soon as they entered the home and detected extremely high levels of the lethal gas.

Fire and EMS crews found the most seriously ill patient, who appears to be a young adult or older teen, unconscious. The patient's mother said she and her sons had been at home all day. The most seriously ill son had been watching TV in the basement and came upstairs to say he felt ill when he fell unconscious. The mother said she and her second son (also an older teen or young adult) also suffered symptoms consistent with CO poisoning.

Firefighters' gas meters found CO levels in the home at 776 parts per million. At this level, CO can produce unconsciousness or death within a few hours.

Crews immediately evacuated the home, conducted a search and ventilated the building until CO readings returned to 0 ppm. A preliminary inspection by fire crews indicated that a faulty furnace may be the source of the CO buildup. BGE was dispatched.

The home was equipped with a CO alarm, but it was not working.

The threat of carbon monoxide buildup in homes and businesses escalates during periods of severe cold.

Produced by the incomplete burning of solid, liquid or gaseous fuels such as oil, kerosene, natural gas and wood, carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas that robs the body of oxygen. It is especially dangerous because it is invisible and odorless. CO can make you sick – or even kill you -- without your knowing it is there.

During the winter months, first responders often see CO buildup related to improperly maintained fireplaces, furnaces and wood stoves; ranges and stoves used as supplemental heating devices; and especially to the improper use of portable generators.

"This information is extremely important and can be a matter of life and death," said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.  "I hope that everyone will read this carefully and share it with family and friends."


Use of CO Alarms

The easiest and most effective tool to prevent CO poisoning is use of CO alarms, which sound an alert based on exposure to the gas over time. (CO, measured in parts per million, is a cumulative gas; at high levels, it can kill quickly, and at low levels it can gradually sicken.) The device will go off before the average adult would experience symptoms of CO exposure, allowing people to get out of the house and take steps to correct the source of the problem.

In two separate incidents one day last month, 10 county residents were taken to local hospitals after carbon monoxide leaks related to faulty home furnaces. Significantly, neither household had a single carbon monoxide detector.

“CO alarms save lives,” said Fire Chief John Hohman. “Every home that includes a fuel-burning appliance has the potential to generate carbon monoxide, and every home should have alarms to detect carbon monoxide.”

Emergencies involving CO have resulted in important state and local regulations regarding CO and CO detectors, including a Baltimore County law requiring carbon monoxide alarms in all rental housing. There has been one fatal incident in Baltimore County since this law was enacted several years ago, and none since 2010. 

Mike Mohler, Chief Administrator of Permits, Inspections and Approvals, said the current cold snap is a good time to remind all tenants and landlords in Baltimore County that, under county law, all units with a fuel-burning appliance or heating system, including a fire place, must have installed a fully functioning CO detector."

If your alarm sounds, dial 911 and get out of the house. First responders will try to identify the source of the problem and will mitigate the emergency by ventilating the home and, if possible, shutting off the source of the CO. If the problem involves a plumbing or appliance repair, the homeowner or landlord must contact a licensed contractor.

Additional information about carbon monoxide is available on our fact sheet.

About Portable Generators

Portable generators have become popular tools for dealing with power outages. Data from the National Fire Protection Association shows that, nationwide, CO illnesses and deaths related to the use of generators have risen along with generator sales.

 Generators emit far higher levels of CO than an automobile. Opening doors and window or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home.

Never operate a generator indoors - including in a basement or garage or in areas with ventilation. Operate generators at least 15 feet from windows, doors and vents that could allow CO to enter your home.

For additional information, see our fact sheet on portable generator use.

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