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PREVENTING CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
• Service all heating systems and all gas-, oil- or coal-burning appliances by a technician annually.
• Install a battery-operated and electric-powered carbon monoxide detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 911.
• Contact a doctor if you believe you have carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Do not use gas-powered devices such as a generator, grill or stove inside your home, basement or near a near a window or door. Generators should be operated more than 15 feet from the home.
• Do not run any gas-powered motor inside a closed structure, such as a garage.
Back in February, I had some arthroscopic knee surgery done to repair some cartilage. The day of the surgery and the next day were kind of foggy to me. There is a strange feeling you get when you are on prescription pain killers to help the healing process along. They are prescribed for a reason, but you just can't function well while under their influence. As I weaned myself off the pain killers on day three, I was happy to be in full control of my senses and aware of what was going on around me.
Some of the visits and phone calls from family and friends I remembered; others I did not. I was shocked to learn of some of the visits and calls that I answered, but now have no recollection of. This got me to thinking about what it would be like trying to come up with an emergency escape plan while a fire is burning inside your home.
Most of us may think that it would be easy to come up with an escape plan for your own home. After all, you aren't ever more than a few steps away from a window or a door. You know your own home so well it would be hard to get lost in it. Those are both reasons that I have heard people tell me for not making an escape plan ahead of time. Why bother?
Keep in mind if you have an unwanted fire in your home, you are being exposed to many different products of combustion. Carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide are both responsible for the one-two punch of confusion and sleepiness. It can make it hard to open a door by turning the handle while under the influence of these “toxic twins.” They take away reason and logic while oxygen is being deprived from the brain.
High heat levels build up incredibly fast in a compartment, such as in a room or a level in the home. The searing heat raising the temperature of your body has to be mind-numbing. How can one focus on tasks while your brain is screaming to do nothing but stop the pain? Temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit are not uncommon in rooms on fire, and the higher you are, the hotter it is. This is why it is important to practice crawling low under smoke. We have all heard it before, but get down on your hands and knees and practice crawling to your doors. This will make it more automatic for you to do this if you have that memory marker that you have done it before.
The “fog” of my two days on pain medications made me wonder if that is the same feeling people may have when trying to make a good plan during less-than-perfect conditions. The key is to prepare and practice a fire escape plan with your family while everyone is awake and alert.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.