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Time to change your alarm

Carbon monoxide detectors required within 15 feet of sleeping areas

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

This year marks the sixth anniversary of the Illinois Carbon Monoxide Alarm Detector Act, which requires homeowners and landlords to install carbon monoxide alarms within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping.

First Alert, a manufacturer of residential fire and CO detection devices, is warning consumers that it likely is time to replace alarms installed when the law took effect.

Although alarm lifespans vary by model and manufacturer, a properly maintained CO alarm has a lifespan of 5 to 7 years, the company said in a news release. As an extra safety measure, end-of-life warnings are built into most CO alarms to alert residents to the need for replacement. 

Still, “if you can’t think of the last time you installed a smoke or CO alarm, chances are, it’s time to replace your old ones,” Deborah Hanson, director of external affairs for First Alert, said in the release.

“Installing new alarms ensures a home is protected with the most advanced CO sensing technologies and latest safety features available. "

Known as the “silent killer,” CO is a colorless, odorless gas impossible to detect without a sensing device.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, CO poisoning is the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the United States and is responsible for an average of 450 deaths each year.

Heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances and cooking sources using coal, wood, or petroleum products all are potential sources of CO.

CO poisoning can cause symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, chest pain and vomiting that mimic those of many other illnesses, making it difficult to diagnose. In severe poisoning cases, victims can experience disorientation, unconsciousness, long-term neurological disabilities, cardio respiratory failure or death.

In addition to replacing CO alarms as they reach expiration, Hanson recommends the following tips and tools for keeping your home safer from CO:

-- Run kitchen vents or exhaust fans anytime the stove is in use. The kitchen stove is among the most frequent sources of CO poisoning in the home. To help eliminate danger of overexposure, always run exhaust fans when cooking, and open a nearby window periodically to allow fresh air to circulate.

-- Never use generators inside the home, the garage or any confined area that can allow CO to collect. Also refrain from using charcoal grills, camp stoves and other similar devices indoors. Have all fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers, water heaters and space heaters, inspected annually to detect any CO leaks.

-- Be mindful of the garage. Running vehicles inside an attached garage, even if the door is open, is hazardous, as CO can leak into the home.

-- Install CO alarms on every level of the home and near each sleeping area for maximum protection. Test alarm function monthly and change batteries every 6 months.

-- Call 911 and leave the home immediately if the CO alarm sounds.

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