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Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Good afternoon – Our Fire Department staff asked me to send out this reminder, since over the last few weeks there have been a number of incidents in the greater Bay Area involving people being poisoned by carbon monoxide (CO) gas. Thankfully, no major incidents have occurred in Redwood City, but this should serve as a valuable safety reminder to our community to take some simple steps to avoid the “invisible killer.”

Carbon monoxide it is a very poisonous gas which is colorless and odorless, and because of this people may not know they are being poisoned. It’s produced by the incomplete burning of fuel in various products, including furnaces, portable generators, fireplaces, cars and charcoal grills. If fuel-burning appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances.

During cold weather and the increased use of heating systems, it’s critically important that everyone is aware of this danger. The first step is to be sure to have working CO alarms in the home, on each level and outside each sleeping area. As of last summer, CO detectors are required in nearly all California homes (combination smoke/CO alarms are available).

You should know the symptoms of CO poisoning: at moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer term effects on your health.

In addition to installing CO detectors in the home, here are some important reminders:

  • DON’T use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
  • DON’T ever use a charcoal grill indoors — even in a fireplace.
  • DON’T sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
  • DON’T use any gasoline-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators) in enclosed spaces.
  • DON’T ignore symptoms, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness and die if you do nothing

For more information on carbon monoxide visit the CAL FIRE website at or visit the website for the California Department of Public Health at Also visit the Redwood City Fire Department’s web page at

Let’s all enjoy a safe, happy holiday  season – please be sure you understand the threat of CO poisoning, and  take precautions to protect your family.


~ malcolm

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