The East Peoria Fire Department has had a number of carbon monoxide calls over the past few months.
The East Peoria Fire Department has had a number of carbon monoxide calls over the past few months. John Knapp, assistance chief and fire marshal, wants to get the word out about carbon monoxide, or CO. Knapp said that there are more calls for carbon monoxide during colder weather months than other times. Carbon monoxide is the No. 1 cause of poisoning deaths in the nation, claiming about 300 lives a year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Carbon monoxide is produced, Knapp said, by fuel burning appliances and typically is exhausted through vents in the house. When there is a malfunction, this colorless, odorless and tasteless gas can reach dangerous levels. “So you don't know you're having a problem there. We encourage everyone with fuel burning appliances — meaning natural gas or propane appliances or enclosed spaces where there could be a threat of vehicle exhaust to have and maintain — not only smoke detectors, but also carbon monoxide detectors, which are now required by law,” Knapp said. Carbon monoxide detectors can be purchased at any home improvement store or most major retailers. They typically range from $20 on up. Without a detector, the only way a person knows there is “when somebody is feeling ill, like flu-like symptoms with prolonged headaches for no apparent reason,” Knapp said. With a carbon monoxide detector, the unit will sound with an alarm to alert residents of unnatural carbon monoxide levels. Fire departments carry a special meter to gauge the carbon monoxide levels. “If a problem is identified we will contact CILCO,” Knapp said. “Most of the time, we have determined that the alarm activations are not necessarily a result of a malfunction of the unit but are actually the result of a bad battery that needs to be replaced.” Over the past three months, eight of the 12 CO calls were false alarms. Knapp said about 90 percent of the calls the East Peoria Fire Department goes to are due to batteries and 10 percent are real. However, Knapp doesn't want this to discourage residents from calling the fire department. “If that alarm goes off and they are having any symptoms at all, call the fire department, and we will be happy to come out. When in doubt, because we are the fire department, please call us. That's what we're here for,” he said. In addition to checking batteries, Knapp said CO detectors should probably be replaced every five years. “They have a life expectancy of five to 10 years,” he said. The way CO can get into a home varies. Furnaces, hot water heaters and kitchen ranges are the big three, Knapp said. “Kitchen burners can get kind of goofy when all burners are going, you will get excess CO,” Knapp said. Also, CO can get into a home when people in split foyer homes with a garage below a room warm up their car, Knapp added. He recommends pulling the car out of the garage. “It can potentially be fatal depending on concentrations in the air,” he said. “I don't know that we've every had a fatal CO in East Peoria but certainly throughout the nation. It does lead to a few fatalities and a number of illnesses every year,” Knapp said.