Tellico Village Volunteer Fire Department

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Carbon Monoxide Detectors

A carbon monoxide detector herein after referred to as a CO detector is a device that detects the presence of carbon monoxide gas in order to prevent CO poisoning. CO is a colorless, tasteless and odorless compound produced by incomplete combustion of carbon containing materials. It is often referred to as the "silent killer" because it is virtually undetectable without using detection technology and most do not realize they are being poisoned. Elevated levels of CO can be dangerous to humans depending on the amount present and length of exposure. Smaller concentrations can be harmful over longer periods of time while increasing concentrations require diminishing exposure times to be harmful.

CO detectors are designed to measure CO levels over time and sound an alarm before dangerous levels of CO accumulate in an environment, giving people adequate warning to safely ventilate the area or evacuate. Some system-connected detectors also alert a monitoring service that can dispatch emergency services if necessary.

While CO detectors do not serve as smoke detectors and vice versa, dual smoke/CO detectors are also sold. Smoke detectors detect the smoke generated by flaming or smoldering fires, whereas CO detectors detect and warn people about dangerous CO buildup caused, for example, by a malfunctioning fuel-burning device. In the home, some common sources of CO include open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage.

The devices, which retail on average for $15–$60 and are widely available, can either be battery-operated or AC powered (with or without a battery backup). Battery lifetimes have been increasing as the technology has developed and certain battery powered devices now advertise a battery lifetime of over 6 years. Some smoke detectors are equipped with an internal rechargeable battery backup that recharges when the detector is receiving AC power. All CO detectors have "test" buttons like smoke detectors.

Where Should I Place a CO Detector?

The gravity of CO is is 0.9657 (with normal air being 1.0), almost identical however, since CO is usually mixed with warm rising air expelled by the appliances, it tends to rise. CO detectors should be placed on a wall approximately 3-5 feet above the floor. The detector may be placed on the ceiling. Always follow the manufacturer's written installation instructions. Do not place the detector right next to or over a fireplace or flame-producing appliance. Keep the detector out of the way of pets and children. Each level of a home needs a separate detector. If you are getting a single carbon monoxide detector, place it near the sleeping area and make certain the alarm is loud enough to wake you up.

What Do I Do if the Alarm Sounds?

Don't ignore the alarm! It is intended to go off before you are experiencing symptoms. Get all members of the household outside into fresh air, and immediately call 911. Ventilate the building, identify and remedy the source of the carbon monoxide before returning inside, and have appliances or chimneys checked by a professional as soon as possible.

There are currently 25 states in America that have legislation relating to CO detectors unfortunately Tennessee is not one of these states.