What it means when your carbon monoxide alarm beeps
If you don't have a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm in your home, do you need one? If you do have one and your carbon monoxide detector starts beeping, do you know what to do? Would your kids know what to do?
Each year many people die from unintentional CO poisoning. Even more will visit the emergency room and be hospitalized due to CO poisoning. Fatality is highest among Americans 65 and older. Sadly, the number of deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning continues to rise yearly.
What you need to know about carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide, also known as the silent killer, is an odourless and colourless gas produced by stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, as well as gas ranges and heating systems. Many people mistake the symptoms of CO poisoning for coming down with the flu.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
How does a carbon monoxide detector alarm sound?
It’s safe to say that most people are more familiar with the sound of their smoke detector or fire alarm than with the sound of their carbon monoxide alarm. For this reason it is important to know that when your CO detector goes off it will emit what is called a “temporal 4 pattern”. This T4 pattern is a universal pattern of high pitch chirps, not beeps. The sound will be much like the one your smoke detector makes when the battery needs to be changed. When this alarm sounds (intermittent beeps) it means this gas has been leaking unbeknownst to you and it has reached a dangerous level.
What to do when you hear that sound
The first thing – DO NOT ignore the beeping of the alarm.
If you or others in your household are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned previously, follow these directions:
- Call 9-1-1 immediately.
- Go to a hospital immediately.
- DO NOT re-enter the home until emergency services have indicated it is safe to return.
If no one is showing signs or symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, follow these directions:
- Open all windows to get air ventilation.
- Turn off any appliances such as your gas-fired furnace or a running generator.
- After the home has gotten ventilation, reset the carbon monoxide detectors.
- If the detectors do not sound again, call a qualified technician to inspect and repair any problem.
Should the alarm sound a second time (and no one is showing signs of CO poisoning), vent the home and call your local fire department. Emergency personnel will advise you when it is safe to return home.