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WORKING Alarms Save Lives – Really!

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It’s Time Change Sunday. Yes, again. And that means it’s time to remind you to change your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm batteries.

Occasionally, we tell you about deaths in homes without working alarms. We hear these tragic stories on the news regularly or see them posted online.

But, for Daylight Saving Time this year, we want to remind you of some positive stories. These are anecdotal, as they are told through the eyes of the media and we haven’t investigated any of the facts ourselves in these cases. But they show lifesaving information about having working smoke and CO alarms in your home.

Carbon Monoxide Alarm
The first story comes from KSAT in San Antonio, Texas. An apartment dweller told KSAT that she installed a carbon monoxide alarm at the advice of a friend. Because of the beep of that alarm, the residents of an entire apartment building were evacuated and saved from a building with high levels of carbon monoxide, a gas that you can’t see or smell, but which can kill you.

The second story comes from BayToday in North Bay, Canada. A mom reports that she and her daughter were feeling nauseous and thought they were getting sick. An alarm was beeping, and the mom asked her husband to go turn it off. Instead of turning the alarm off, the father looked at the alarm, saw the carbon monoxide levels and got the family out of the house. Another story about a tragedy that was prevented.

So remember, buy some new batteries and take a few minutes this weekend to install them in all of your smoke and CO alarms. Then, make sure to test the alarms every month to make sure they are working.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this OnSafety blog do not reflect CPSC endorsement of any product.

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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2012/03/working-alarms-save-lives-really/

CO Deaths Continue to Rise

Just in time for the cold weather, we have new information on carbon monoxide (CO) deaths associated with the use of consumer products.

In 2008 — the latest year for which we have complete data — there were about 190 unintentional non-fire CO-poisoning deaths associated with consumer products under our jurisdiction. The product associated with most of these deaths? Portable generators.

As more people use portable generators, the numbers of CO-related deaths have increased.  In 1999 there were seven generator-related CO deaths. In 2008 the number of deaths reached 86. That’s an increase of more than 1,000 percent.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible killer that strikes within minutes. You can protect yourself with a few simple safety rules:

  • Install working CO alarms in your home. Make sure the alarm is battery-operated or has a battery-backup so it works during a power outage.
  • Keep all generators outside of your home, away from doors and windows.
  • Never use a generator in a garage, basement, crawl space, shed or on a porch.

Most CO-related deaths happen from November through February — the cold months. This makes sense, of course. In colder months, we use our furnaces and fuel-burning space heaters. When we lose power during storms, more and more of you power up your portable generators.

CO deaths also occur when charcoal is used indoors. Just like generators, keep burning charcoal outside, away from the house.

Let’s see if we can work together to drop the number of carbon monoxide-related deaths.

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(Watch in Windows Media format.)

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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2012/01/co-deaths-continue-to-rise/

Time Change-Battery Change Sunday

When you’re changing your clocks this Sunday, make sure to change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, too.

“Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms save lives by alerting you to a fire or CO buildup. They can’t do their job if the batteries aren’t working,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “Protect your family by replacing smoke and CO alarm batteries at least once each year.”

To watch this video in Adobe Flash format, you may need to download the Adobe Flash player. You can also watch the video on YouTube.

Smoke alarms should be placed on every level of the home, outside sleeping areas, and inside each bedroom. About two-thirds of fire deaths occur in homes with either no smoke alarms or smoke alarms that don’t work.

CO alarms should be installed on each level of the home and outside sleeping areas. CO alarms should not be installed in attics or basements unless they include a sleeping area. Combination smoke and CO alarms are available to consumers.

November is also a good time of year to schedule an annual professional inspection of all fuel-burning appliances, including furnaces and chimneys. This inspection helps protect against CO poisoning. Home heating systems were associated with 70 deaths, or 38 percent of CO poisoning deaths, in 2007, the largest percentage of non-fire CO poisoning deaths.

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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2011/11/time-change-battery-change-sunday/

Post-Hurricane: Power by Generator

According to the Associated Press as of Monday morning, Hurricane Irene blacked out 8 million homes and businesses at its height. Many are still without power.

And online news reports of carbon monoxide incidents due to generators have been popping up:

  • Ellicott City, Md.: A 48-year-old man died from carbon monoxide poisoning. His wife and teenage son were hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning. The family reportedly had a generator running in their garage. The batteries were dead in the carbon monoxide alarm in the home. (Source: Baltimore Sun)


  • Fairfield, Ct.: Six people – four adults and two children – were reportedly treated at a hospital for carbon monoxide exposure. A gasoline generator was running in the basement of their home. (Source: WTNH-TV 8)


  • Washington Township, N.J.: A police sergeant and a firefighter were reportedly hospitalized after working for five hours in a room while a generator was running. (Source: Examiner)


  • Kensington, Md.: Two people were reportedly taken to the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning. The house had a generator running outside; however, the carbon monoxide drifted in through open windows. (Source: WTOP)


  • Hanover, Va.: Two people were taken to the hospital. A gas-powered generator was reportedly outside an open window. High levels of CO were found inside. (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)


  • Abington, Md.: A family of seven put their generator just inside the garage door. The garage door was reportedly raised about a foot to ventilate the fumes. But the fumes entered the house. The family survived. (Source: ABC-TV 2)

Generator Warning Label
Carbon monoxide is an invisible killer. It’s odorless and colorless. Operating a generator inside your home is like running hundreds of cars in your home. The carbon monoxide can kill you and your family in minutes.

If you’re a first-time generator user – or even if you’ve used one before – make sure to read the owner’s manual and the warning label on your generator carefully. Use  a generator outside your home, far away from windows, doors and vents. DO NOT use it inside. And make sure your home has a working CO alarm.

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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2011/08/post-hurricane-power-by-generator/

Brrrrr! Stay Safe in These Cold Months

house fireCPSC estimates that home heating was associated with about 33,300 fires and 180 fire deaths per year from 2005 to 2007. Cooking and home heating are the leading causes of residential building fires during winter.

In addition, there has been an increasing trend in unintentional non-fire CO deaths associated with consumer products since 1999. CPSC staff estimates that there were 184 CO poisoning deaths on average per year from from 2005-2007 compared with 122 deaths per year from 1999-2001. Since 1999, the majority of CO deaths have been associated with heating systems and portable generators.

CPSC, along with USFA, recommend that, in addition to having working smoke and CO alarms in your homes, you should follow these safety tips to prevent fires and CO poisoning:

Preventing Fires

  • Place space heaters on a floor that is flat and level. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, and other flammable materials; and place space heaters out of the flow of foot traffic. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • To prevent the risk of fire, NEVER leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater close to any sleeping person. Turn the heater off when you leave the area. See CPSC’s electric space heater safety alert for more space heater safety tips.
  • Never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater. Even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of a fire.
  • Have fireplace flues and chimneys inspected for leakage and blockage from creosote or debris every year.
  • Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire, and keep it open until the ashes are cool. An open damper may help prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home.
  • Store fireplace ashes in a fire-resistant container, and cover the container with a lid. Keep the container outdoors and away from combustibles. Dispose of ashes carefully, keeping them away from dry leaves, trash or other combustible materials.

Preventing CO poisoning

  • Schedule a yearly professional inspection of all fuel-burning home heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues and vents.
  • NEVER operate a portable gasoline-powered generator in an enclosed space, such as a garage, shed, or crawlspace, or in the home.
  • Keep portable generators as far away from your home and your neighbors’ homes as possible – away from open doors, windows or vents that could allow deadly carbon monoxide into the home.
  • When purchasing a space heater, ask the salesperson whether the heater has been safety-certified. A certified heater will have a safety certification mark. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features. An unvented gas space heater that meets current safety standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.
  • Do not use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space, unless they are designed specifically for indoor use. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper use.
  • Never use gas or electric stoves to heat the home. They are not intended for that purpose and can pose a CO or fire hazard.
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This address for this post is: http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2011/01/brrrrr-stay-safe-in-these-cold-months/